Fiber is an important macronutrient that most of us overlook, and this is mainly because of the wrong assumption that it only helps with maintaining regular bowel movements. This is typecasting because it has more health benefits. Besides, it is a complex carbohydrate that the body cannot digest but helps to maintain blood sugar levels. Read on to know more about the importance of dietary fiber and its health benefits.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is a macronutrient found abundantly in plant-based food because they make up the structures of plant tissues. This provides support to stems, roots, and other parts so that the plant can stand straight up.
There are mainly two types of fiber, and they are the following:
- Soluble Fiber: This type of fiber absorbs water and becomes a gel-like material, and consuming it makes you feel full. It absorbs excess cholesterol, toxins, and hormones, and moves them out of the body. Soluble fiber is found in food like oats, carrots, beans, peas, barley, citrus fruits, apples, and psyllium.
- Insoluble Fiber: This type of fiber does not dissolve in water, and it is hard to digest. So, it moves through the digestive system without much change as well as helps with bowel movement, i.e., sweeping out waste. Also, insoluble fiber can be called plant roughage, and it is found in high amounts in wheat bran, potatoes, nuts, beans, cauliflower, whole wheat flour, etc.
Bear in mind that you need both types of fiber in your diet, and the best way to ensure this is to eat more plant-based food. Also, the amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies between different types of plant-based foods.
What Is The Relationship Between Fiber And Gut Health?
Soluble and insoluble fiber helps with maintaining the health of the digestive system. The latter is also known as fermentable fiber as it serves as food for the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a key role in various biological processes like immunity, maintaining blood sugar levels, and produces certain nutrients. Listed below is the recommended amount of fiber people belonging to different age groups must consume:
- Men 50 years and younger must consume 38 grams of fiber per day
- Men over the age of 50 must consume 30 grams of fiber per day
- Women 50 years and younger must consume 25 grams of fiber per day
- Women over the age of 50 must consume 21 grams of fiber per day
The recommended fiber intake according to the American Heart Association (AHA) is 25 to 30 grams per day for all adults. Also, health experts say that the fiber consumed must come from whole foods, not supplements.
What Is The Fiber Content In Plant-Based Food?
The fiber content of some plant-based foods are listed below:
- Lentils: 16 grams in 1 cup
- Corn: 12 grams in 1 cup
- Black beans: 15 grams in 1 cup
- Prunes: 12 grams in 1 cup
- Pistachios: 13 grams on 1 cup
- Chickpeas: 10.6 grams in 1 cup
- Oatmeal: 8 grams in 1 cup
- Artichokes: 10 grams in 1 artichoke
- Peas: 9 grams in 1 cup
- Apples: 4 grams in a small, unpeeled apple
- Avocado: 7 grams in ½ an avocado
- Pears: 6 grams in a medium, unpeeled pear
- Raspberries: 8 grams in 1 cup
- Brown rice: 4 grams in 1 cup
- Broccoli: 2.4 grams in 1 cup
- Celery: 1.6 grams in 1 cup
- Kale: 2.6 grams in 1 cup
- Spinach: 4.3 grams in 1 cup
- Dark chocolate: 3.2 grams in 1 ounce
If you can get at least 30 grams of fiber in a day through your food, you will be healthier, will maintain body weight, and feel great. When on a plant-based diet, the best way to ensure this is to eat a wide variety of foods.
What Are The Health Benefits Of A High Fiber Diet?
Remember that a plant-based meal is high in fiber because of the higher fiber content of these foods.
- Normal Bowel Movement: The presence of insoluble fiber in plant-based food adds bulk to the stool and helps in bowel movement. This also prevents or decreases the chances of constipation. Moreover, it plays a key role in maintaining gut health.
- Helps To Maintain Healthy Weight: The high-fiber content of plant-based foods makes them more filling. Also, they have a lower calorie content. Due to these two reasons, your calorie intake is reduced, and this helps with managing weight.
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels: The soluble fiber lowers LDL or bad cholesterol levels, and this helps to maintain heart health.
- Controls Blood Sugar Levels: Soluble fiber in whole foods slows down the absorption of sugar.
On a final note, adding too much fiber to your diet can cause bloating, intestinal gas, and cramping. These are the important points that you must know about fiber in your diet.