Dietary fiber comes from plants and consists of carbohydrates that human body cannot absorb. Nevertheless, it is important part of a balanced, healthy diet. Fiber helps our digestive system to absorb and process nutrients, and also control our appetite by making us feel full for longer periods of time.
Dietary fiber comes in two forms: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Some groceries have both, soluble and insoluble fibre, and some have only one type.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water. It turns into a gel form when it travels through the intestinal tract, which slows down digestion. Soluble fibre helps lower cholesterol levels and decreases the risk of heart disease (fibre slows down glucose absorption and that improves the regulation of blood sugar levels). All the fruit and vegetable are a great source of fibre, and here is some of the food that is the richest in fibre: apples, pears, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, oat, bran, barley, flax seeds, chia seeds, beans, peas and lentils.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. It encourages peristalsis – contraction and relaxation of the muscles in digestive tract which ultimately prevents constipation. Insoluble fibre remains pretty much intact throughout the digestive process and that makes it the more beneficial fibre type for creating a healthy stool. Insoluble fibre is found in skins of fruit (don’t peel that apple next time), brown rice, seeds, corn, oats, whole-wheat/grain products, fruit and veggies.
How much fibre do I need?
Daily recommendation for fibre intake is between 20 – 30 g (that includes both soluble and insoluble fibre). Food that has 6 g of fibre per 100 g or 100 ml is considered a great, rich source.
How to increase fibre intake?
Most important thing is that you take this step by step! If you haven’t been paying attention of how much fibre you get daily then start having about 20 g of fibre per day, to start with. Then, next week you can increase it up to 25 g, and if you don’t notice any changes or pains you can go up to 30 g the next week.
In order to increase your fibre intake you need to:
– start reading nutritional labels. Any food that has 2,5 g of fibre per serving is a good source.
– start your day with a good nutritional breakfast that includes whole grain cereal (choose the ones that have 4 g fibre or more per serving) or make oatmeal (oats have 10 g of fibre per 100 g)
– add bran to your cereal, cottage cheese or salads
– include vegetables (frozen or fresh) with your main meals
– switch white rice for brown, regular bread for rye bread
– add fruit to your breakfast, yoghurts or salads
– eat more beans and lentils (great in soups, salads)
– increase your fibre intake the natural way; all the food that we’re able to eat has more than enough fibre, you just need to make smart choices
Can there be any bad side effects?
Yes. It is possible to go overboard with fibre intake and if you eat more than your body is comfortable with you will either spend your day in the bathroom or you will feel bloated, gassy, have serious cramps, diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Big amounts of fibre can also minimise absorption of important vitamins and minerals. It is very important you drink enough water daily. This will prevent dehydration and it will help move fibre out of your system. The key is to listen to your body and see what amount of fibre is your body most comfortable with.