What is dietary fiber? It is basically that part of the food which is not digested and is removed from the body. Some fibers are soluble in water, while others are not. They are a type of carbohydrate. Soluble fiber is fermented by the bacteria in the digestive tract, while insoluble fiber is fermented in the colon region. Although it is not digested, it is vital for a good metabolism, weight control, and healthy aging. Read on to know how.
The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences recently published a new study which supports the fact that dietary fibers play a major role in protecting against disabilities and preventing diseases as we age. The study also proved the fact that those who included more than 80% of dietary fibers in their diet had better chances of living a long and healthy life. The individuals were also less prone to health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, memory disorders, and dementia.
Similar studies have also related dietary fiber consumption to healthy aging.
Apart from healthy aging, dietary fibers have additional benefits:
- They positively influence postprandial glycemia, especially in diabetics.
- They make you feel fuller for a long time compared to low-fiber, starch-rich foods.
- Dietary fibers ensure healthy bowel movements.
- They help prevent issues related to arteries and cardiac diseases.
- They help manage weight and keep obesity at bay.
Dietary Fiber and Glycemic Index
All of us, depending on the diet we consume and whether we are diabetic or not, have increased blood sugar levels after meals, or what is known as postprandial glycemia. This is especially evident in diabetics. To reduce these post-meal sugar levels, doctors and dietitians recommend high-fiber foods which have a low glycemic index.
Glycemic index is nothing but a ranking of carbohydrates which is based on how much the sugar levels increase after we eat. Foods are classified as low, medium, or high in glycemic load. However, this is not fixed for each food type; it varies depending on the way the food type is processed or cooked before we consume it. Generally, all fruits and nuts if eaten whole and raw would have a low GI and a good amount of fiber. Vegetables, lentils, and whole grains are also rich in fiber, but their GI would vary on the way they are cooked.
The fundamental reason why high-fiber and low-GI foods are recommended is because of the time they for digestion. When you consume high-fiber foods such as whole grains or whole fruits, the digestion process takes a long time because of the fiber content. Also, foods with a low glycemic index release energy slowly. This gives our body sufficient time to break down the carbs and and convert them into energy. This is the reason why such foods make you feel full for a long time and increase your metabolism.
Anti-Aging Advice: Guide to Consuming High-Fiber Foods
By and large, most fruits, nuts, vegetables, lentils, and whole grains are rich in fiber. However, their glycemic index depends on the way they are cooked, processed, and eaten. For instance, a fruit eaten whole and raw would have low GI and high fiber. However, if we consume it in the form of a filtered juice with added sugar, we would not only lose out on the fiber , but also the GI would go up with the added sugar, and that present in the fruit minus the fiber. Also, not all foods which have a low glycemic index have a lot of fiber. Here we have listed some foods which are extremely healthy and fiber-rich.
Dietary Fiber Content: 10.5 grams per cup (sliced).
Benefits: Both the Florida and California avocado varieties have different levels of dietary fiber content. Along with a high-fiber content, avocados contain healthy fats which help lower cholesterol and eliminate risk of heart diseases.
How to Eat: Can be used to make guacamole dip, tossed in a salad, used in a healthy wrap, or simply on its own!
Dietary Fiber Content: 9.9 grams of fiber per medium fruit (with skin).
Benefits: Along with a high-fiber content, Asian pears are a delight to consume! The sweet, crunchy fruit is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, omega-6 fatty acids, and potassium. Consuming this fruit also leads to healthy cells, and proper brain and nerve functioning.
How to Eat: Can be used in various desserts, poached, stewed, or munched on whole as a healthy snack.
Dietary Fiber Content: Raspberries contain 8 grams, while blackberries have 7.6 grams of dietary fibers per cup.
Benefits: Raspberries contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. They help maintain stable blood sugar levels and support healthy bones and skin. Blackberries are loaded with vitamin K which is linked to boosting bone density. Both berries are extremely healthy and delicious.
How to Eat: Best with desserts, in smoothies and juices, or own their own.
Dietary Fiber Content: 7.2 grams per cup.
Benefits: Coconuts are high in fiber content and have a low glycemic index, making them a perfect fit in a healthy diet. Coconuts contain four to six times more dietary fiber than oat bran and are available in fresh, desiccated, and flour form, which can be utilized in multiple ways. Coconut consumption is also closely linked to lowering high cholesterol levels and preventing heart diseases. Coconuts also contain manganese, omega-6 fatty acids, folate, and selenium.
How to Eat: In curries and soups (coconut milk), desserts (desiccated coconut or coconut flour), salads, and veggies (grated or chopped).
Dietary Fiber Content: 14.6 grams in a cup of dried figs.
Benefits: One of the richest sources of dietary fibers, figs both dried and fresh, are excellent fruit choices. The fruit has a near-perfect balance of both soluble and insoluble fibers, and is also rich in potassium, manganese, and copper. Figs assist in lowering blood pressure, protect against macular degeneration, and are versatile fruit options.
How to Eat: On cereals, salads and appetizers, or added to desserts and smoothies.
Dietary Fiber Content: 8.6 grams per cup of cooked peas.
Benefits: Packed with dietary fiber, powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and vitamins C, K, B6 and manganese, peas support a good and healthy diet in every way. Peas also provide 100% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake and over 25% of thiamin and folate.
How to Eat: In soups, salads, steamed with other veggies, and in side dishes.
Dietary Fiber Content: 9 grams of fiber per cup of baked acorn squash.
Benefits: Acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, and spaghetti squash are high in nutrients and dietary fibers. Acorn squash is high in soluble fibers, which slows down the digestion process, allowing the body sufficient time to absorb nutrients. It also contains vitamins A, B6 and C, thiamin, potassium, manganese, folate, and magnesium.
How to Eat: Can be roasted and blended, and is a healthy alternative to potatoes and other starches. It is also a great option for main courses.
Dietary Fiber Content: 12.2 grams of fiber per cup.
Benefits: High in protein, thiamin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and folate, black beans are highly nutritious. These protein-rich legumes contain flavonoids and antioxidants which reduce the risk of cancer, inflammatory diseases, and help fight free radicals.
How to Eat: Can be used in Mexican dishes, stews, soups, and salads.
Hazards of Consuming Excess Dietary Fiber
Although there are numerous benefits of opting for a high-fiber diet, there are ill effects if one consumes it in excess. The regular intake level of dietary fiber is 25 grams per day, thus it is critical to ensure you stick to a healthy and balanced diet.
Too much fiber in your food may cause:
- Digestion issues – Though the right quantity can aid digestion, too much can do the exact opposite. Excessive fiber can lead to gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and even intestinal blockage in rare cases.
- Low mineral absorption – The National Institutes of Health reports excess fiber can prevent the absorption of other vital minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
- Improper nutrition intake – Over-consumption of fiber may also lead to nutritional deficiencies, as you may avoid other minerals and vitamins in the process. Always check the amount of dietary fibers in a food product before you consume it.
Our suggestion is to consult a doctor before starting on a new diet plan to ensure you know all the good and bad effects of your healthy, balanced diet.
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