Dietary fiber, the essential for a healthy diet. You might have heard the term before. Rural Africans eat about 55 grams of fiber a day, and have the lowest incidence of bowel diseases such as appendicitis, colitis and bowel cancer. Selecting tasty foods with fiber isn’t difficult, find out how much fiber you need and why is so good for your health.

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What is dietary fiber for?

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies’ enzymes. It is mainly found in edible plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Unlike other carbohydrates which your body breaks down and absorbs, fiber passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body.

Fiber can be classified into two types:

Soluble fiber

This type of fiber attracts water and turns into gel during digestion. It binds to substances like cholesterol and sugar, preventing and slowing their absorption into the blood. It helps reduce overall cholesterol levels and the risk of heart diseases. Soluble fiber also boosts the population of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut which improves immune system.

Foods contain high soluble fiber: oats, nuts, beans, apples, carrots, avocados, pears, berries, citrus fruits, barley and legumes

Insoluble fiber

This type of fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, it provides bulk in the intestines, while helping balance the pH levels in the intestines. It improves bowel movements which help to prevent bowel related health conditions such as constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.

Foods contain high insoluble fiber: seeds, fruit skins, brown rice, whole-wheat, potatoes, green vegetables, cauliflower and nuts

Benefits of high fiber diet:

1. Helps maintain bowel health and normalize bowel movements

Fiber increases the weight and size of your stool which makes it easier to pass intestines, it also absorbs water and solidify the stool which decreasing the chance of bowel related health conditions.

2. Decreases cholesterol levels

Soluble fiber attaches oxidized LDL cholesterol particles and take them out of the body, helping to lower overall cholesterol levels. It also reduces blood pressure and inflammation, promote heart protection.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

High-fiber foods can fill you up faster and keep you satisfied longer, they also bind with fat and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract which reduce the number of calories you actually get.

4. Maintain blood sugar levels

It’s a well-established fact; soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and keep blood sugar levels steady. A high-fiber diet will prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

5. Boost probiotics and have healthier gut

The probiotics which are good bacteria that make up your microbiome in the gut, they feed and flourish on fiber. Most importantly they produce short-chain fatty acids during fermentation, these short chain fats help nourish and recalibrate your immune system; increase specialized immune cells called T regulatory cells which help prevent autoimmune responses.

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Daily recommendations for adults

The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily fiber recommendations for adults:

Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

The vast majority of population gets less than half of the daily recommended fiber. Without fiber, our digestive tract suffers, we develop high cholesterol that may lead to heart disease, and inflammation may increase in the body. High fiber diets help to lower the risk of some cancers, bowel diseases, heart disease, kidney stones, and obesity.

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