All you need to know about dietary fiber now

It's one of the most commonly known things when you start a healthier lifestyle: Add more fiber to you diet.

Do you really know why fiber is crucial for your health? If not, read on and learn more about the importance of fiber in your diet. 

The truth is, most people don’t get enough fiber. The average person gets about 18g a day.

You should at least aim for 30g per day. 

Tell me more about dietary fiber

Dietary fiber is a plant-based nutrient and maybe you heard of it before as ‘roughage’ or ‘bulk’.

Basically, fiber is a type of carbohydrate. Unlike other carbs though, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules (glucose).

Hence, fiber passes through the intestinal tract relatively undigested.

Why do we need fiber?

Fiber is mainly needed to keep the digestive system healthy and intact. However, it also contributes to other processes, such as stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels, by absorbing glucose and fats in the small intestine. In fact, it reduces the glycemic index of your meals.

There is also a strong evidence that eating plenty of fiber is associated with a lower risk of heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Furthermore, fiber is fuel for the healthful bacteria in your large intestines, which help us by making vitamin B12 and by releasing volatile fatty acids. Those volatile fatty acids are important for the health of our colon.

Increasing your fiber intake will make you feel full longer, which can be beneficial in a weight loss diet and will help to prevent constipation.

If you want to increase your fiber intake, it’s important to do so gradually. A sudden increase may make you produce more flatulence, leave you feeling bloated and can cause stomach cramps. Also make sure you drink plenty of water.

Types of fiber

There are two different varieties of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Both types are important for an optimal overall health. 

Soluble fiber dissolves in water in your digestive system. It becomes a gel-like substance in your body, which is known to help decrease blood glucose levels and LDL ("bad cholesterol")

Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water. Therefore, it mostly retains it's shape in the digestive system. The main purpose of insoluble fiber is to speed up the digestion of food through your digestive system. It also increases fecal bulk, which makes stools easier to pass.  

Foods high in fiber 

Actually, it's pretty easy to increase your fiber intake. Just focus on whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Plus, fiber is also often found in higher concentration in fruits and vegetables skin. 

List of foods, which are high in fiber

  • Lentils, with 16g fiber per cooked cup 
  • Back beans, with 15g fiber per cooked cup
  • Green peas, with 9g fiber per cooked cup
  • Bran flakes, with 7g fiber per cup 
  • Berries like raspberries and blackberries, with 7g fiber per cup 
  • Broccoli, with 5g of fiber when boiled
  • Apples with the skin on, with 4.4g fiber
Fiber and food allergies

Suffering from food allergies can be very challenging when it comes to getting a healthy amount of fiber. But there is a wide range of fiber containing foods, which you can be eaten safely.

You should be able to find some foods, which you are not allergic to. 

Foods high in fiber and the least likely to be allergenic

  • Apples 
  • Pears
  • fresh melons 
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes 
  • Broccoli 
Fiber supplements 

Always choose whole foods over supplements! Fiber supplements, like Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon, don’t provide the variety of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients you need, such as whole foods do.

Another way to increase your fiber intake is to eat more foods with added fiber. Added fiber is usually labeled as “inulin” or “chicory root”

However, some people still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient, if they have certain medical conditions, or if they are on a VLC-diet because of medical conditions.

In those cases, consider a supplement to improve constipation, diarrhoea or irritable bowl syndrome, but never cut out whole foods completely out of your diet.

Always check first with your GP before considering fiber supplements. 

Can you have too much dietary fiber?

Of course, as with everything else. Too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of minerals, such as calcium, zinc and iron. It's rarely the case, but this can cause problems when your overall diet quality is not that good. Especially when you're taking fiber supplements.

But the bottom line is, fiber has a lot of health benefits! For overall health it's important to eat a well-balanced diet!

So make sure you get enough fiber in, especially on a calorie restricted diet.

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