Fiber “roughage” is the part of plant food that is not broken down or digested in our bodies. It is the plants skin, roots, stems, leaves and seeds. Fiber is not digested by your body. It passes unchanged through your stomach, small intestine and into your colon.
Fiber is classified into two categories:
- Insoluble Fiber: Those that do not dissolve in water
- This fiber promotes movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can benefit those with constipation or irregular stools. Whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, and many vegetables are a good source.
- Soluble Fiber: Those that do dissolve in water
- This fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruit, carrot, barley, and psyllium are sources.
Major benefits to using more fiber in our diet include:
- Prevents constipation by increasing the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool by absorbing water and adding bulk.
- Lowers your risk of digestive conditions such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, development of small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease), reducing risk of colon cancer.
- Lowers total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein “bad” cholesterol levels with soluble fiber (oats, flaxseed and oat bran).
- Controls blood glucose levels with soluble fibers slowing the absorption of sugar. May reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps with weight loss by giving a full and satisfied feeling. High fiber foods are lower in calories, take longer to chew, and gives your body longer to register that you are no longer hungry.
How much Fiber do you need?
- Men age 50 or younger need 38 grams
- Men age 51 and older need 30 grams
- Women 50 or younger need 25 grams
- Women 51 and older need 21 grams
Ravi Mallavarapu, M.D., Srinivas Kalala, M.D., Ana Alardin, M.D., Barbara Burkle, ARNP, Tracy Elliott, ARNP