The Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber

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We often hear people say “the body cannot digest fiber and so it does not provide us with energy. Well, that is true, but is that enough reason to “stay away” from fibers?

                        What are Fibers?

Fibers specifically dietary fibers refer to foods from plant that cannot be digested by the body. In other words, they pass through the digestive system without undergoing any significant change. However, they perform very useful functions which we shall see.

Fibers could be soluble such as foods like oats bran, barley, beans and legumes or insoluble like wheat flour, wheat bran, brown rice, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, berries, nuts and carrots. Fiber-rich fruits include: bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries and raspberries.

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For vegetables generally, the darker the color, the higher the fiber content. However, both soluble and insoluble fibers have important health benefit which include:

  1. Weight Control: Foods rich in fibers tend to be low in Fat and added sugar, thus they promote weight loss. They also provide satiety and delay hunger-This is the reason you feel satisfied when hungry after eating the pulp of 2-3 oranges which is a rich source of fiber.
  2. 2. Digestion: This is the best-known health benefit of insoluble fibers. They ease digestion and make our stool bulky and this in return eases defecation.
  3. Heart Disease: As a result of proper digestion aided by fibers, cholesterol from blood is readily available for the production of bile acid which is required for the emulsification of fat-A process required for easy digestion of foods that contain fats. The next effect is that there is a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood which is a major risk factor for heart diseases.
  4. Sugar level Control: Having excess sugar in the blood is one high risk factor for having the common Type 2 diabetes. Eating food rich in soluble fiber helps control sugar level by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. So, having the right amount of fibers included in your meal is one effective way of preventing the Type 2 diabetes.
  5. GI (Gastrointestinal) Health: Dietary fibers enhance the health of the large intestine. They prevent several disorders like excessive pressure on your rectal muscles when you pass out your stool as they make the stool soft for easy passage out through the anus. Continuous pressure on the GI tract could result to a condition known as diverticulum which is unhealthy. Fibers also prevent severe constipation.
  6. Cancer: Consuming high fiber diet protects us against some kind of cancers such as colon cancer.

In conclusion, it is important to start gradually if you want to adopt a high fiber diet as fibers when taken fast or in excess could cause bloating, cramp, diarrhea and obstructed GI tract.

Credit: Mboutidem Akpan