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Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet

What is dietary fiber?

Fiber is in my opinion a forgotten topic even if it plays a super important role in our overall health. Most people do not eat enough fiber according to the average intake. We must be aware of its benefits and the consequences when it lacks. First of all, fiber is the indigestible cell wall component of plant material. In other words, it is the group of substances in plant foods, which cannot be completely broken down by our digestive enzymes.  So, instead of being absorbed in our bloodstream, fiber simply passes through the entire digestive track.

The risk of low fiber intake:

Irregular digestion: fiber, especially insoluble fiber, promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk, benefiting those who suffer from constipation.

Elevated cholesterol levels: during digestion your body releases bile acids, which contains cholesterol from your body. Normally, a portion of this gets re-absorbed along with other nutrients. However, when the fiber is present in your intestines, it binds to the bile acids and eliminates them from your body as waste.

Increased body weight:  fiber helps managing your weight in different ways:

  • Reduces hunger and promotes sense of fullness.

  • Slows the absorption of sugar and improves blood sugar levels.

  • High-fiber meals are less energy dense, which means they contain fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Tips for fitting in more fiber

  1. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.

  2. Switch to whole foods. Those retain their natural state and are more nutrient dense. They are filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber and don’t have added sugar. It is always better to consume whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole wheat bread.

  3. Increase your fiber intake slowly in order to avoid bloating and cramping. Give your intestine some time to get used to the new foods.

  4. Drink plenty of water when increasing your fiber intake.

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