What is vegetable fiber useful for, and where can I find it?

You probably already know that foods containing fiber (dietary fiber) are good for health. According to WHO recommendations, the daily intake of fiber for adults is 25-30 g - about the amount of fiber found in 400 g of vegetables and fruits. But according to statistics, the majority of the population gets only half of the WHO recommended amount of fiber per day. The reason for this is the Western style of eating with a predominance of refined foods. From our article, you can learn more about the beneficial properties of fiber and simple ways to use it every day.

Fiber (dietary fiber) are substances of various chemical nature of plant origin that cannot be broken down and digested by the enzymes of our body and are used to feed the bacteria living in the intestines. Therefore, dietary fibers are classified as prebiotics - substances that help maintain normal intestinal microflora and its biological activity.

Where is fiber found?

There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble. Both species are found naturally in plant foods - fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Soluble fiber includes complex non-starch carbohydrates that can absorb water and form a gel in the intestines, which determines their beneficial properties - lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. In its natural form, food products contain the following types of soluble fiber: inulin, pectin, gums, mucus, alginates.

Inulin is found mainly in root crops and tubers. Most of all it is in chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, burdock roots and devyatisil, in a lower concentration is in onion and garlic.

Pectins are substances capable of forming jelly in the presence of organic acids and sugar. They are found in greater quantities in fruits (plums, black currants, apples) and vegetables (beets, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, eggplants).

Gums are part of the sticky sap of plants released when the trunks and stems are damaged, as well as the seeds and fruits of some plants.

Products with the maximum content of gums:

  • oatmeal, barley, walnuts, legumes
  • pears, apples, oranges, blueberries, dried fruits;
  • celery, zucchini, carrots, pumpkin, beets.

We get mucus from oatmeal and pearl barley and rice. They are also abundant in flax and psyllium seeds.

Alginates in their natural form are found only in brown algae.

Insoluble fiber is represented mainly by a complex non-starch carbohydrate - cellulose and lignin, which is not a carbohydrate. Insoluble fiber helps move bowel contents and bulks up stools by absorbing water. Therefore, it may be useful for those who are concerned about the fixation of the stool. Read the article from our blog for more information on what else can help get rid of constipation .

Cellulose is the most abundant complex carbohydrate and is found in whole grains, nuts, legumes, and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.

Lignin is an organic substance found in the stiff walls of plant cells. Most lignin in bran. Gut bacteria are not able to break down lignin, and therefore they do not use the bran for nutrition. 

What are the benefits of dietary fiber for our body?

Despite the fact that the human body is not able to use dietary fiber as food, they are a “food base” for beneficial bacteria of the intestinal microflora and, as ballast substances, help improve the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and intestines, as well as remove metabolic products and toxins.

Benefits of a high fiber diet:

  • normalizes bowel movements and helps maintain its health;
  • lowers cholesterol and blood sugar (glucose) levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • promotes weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight; (increased satiety, inhibition of gastric emptying, stimulation of bile excretion processes).
  • reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.
  • Improves the functioning of the biliary system and bile flow.
  • Food rich in pectin and alginates prevents the accumulation of cesium and strontium radionuclides. Due to its ion-exchange properties, dietary fiber removes heavy metal ions (lead, strontium). In addition, they increase the synthesis of vitamins B1, B2, B6, PP, folic acid by intestinal bacteria.

Easy ways to add fiber to your diet

To get the most health benefits, include a variety of natural foods high in a variety of dietary fibers, both soluble and insoluble, in your diet. Among the products-record holders for fiber content:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables with skins;
  • nuts and seeds;
  • whole grain products.

The British Nutrition Association recommends using the rainbow principle - eat 5 servings of vegetables and 2 fruits daily, each of which should match the color of the rainbow.

Nutritionists also recommend:

  • eat raw vegetables and fruits, if you tolerate them well;
  • replace white bread, pasta and rice with whole grain counterparts;
  • bake and eat potatoes with skins;
  • cook cereals from whole grains;
  • add chickpeas, beans or lentils to salads or sauces;
  • snack on fruit or nuts.

It is also possible to use fiber supplements and foods fortified with dietary fiber. To preserve fiber when cooking, don't overcook your vegetables or make them too soft.

What will improve the action of fiber?

Fiber works best when it absorbs water. Sufficient drinking regimen is one of the most important conditions for the normal functioning of the intestines. It is recommended to consume at least 1.5-2.0 liters of drinking water during the day, especially in the morning from 6 to 9 am. A glass of water on an empty stomach in the morning is a habit that can save your life in the future and certainly improve its quality.

Who needs to be careful about adding fiber?

Fiber is good for health, but added too quickly and in large amounts can cause gas, bloating, and cramps. Therefore, increase the amount of fiber in the diet gradually over several weeks (by 2 grams per day). This will allow the bacteria of the intestinal microflora to adapt to the changes.

Fiber can increase gas in people with flatulence and cause abdominal pain in patients with increased intestinal motility. In inflammatory bowel disease and increased intestinal motility, it is necessary to limit the intake of dietary fiber.

Attention! With an increase in fiber intake, especially with the help of supplements and fortified foods, unpleasant symptoms can appear - bloating and increased gas formation after eating. Therefore, recommendations for adding fiber, especially in the presence of gastrointestinal diseases, must be agreed with a gastroenterologist. This is especially true for people with chronic constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. You can get advice from a gastroenterologist on the use of fiber and dietary supplements with it at the Expert Gastroenterological Center.


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