Facts on Fiber

Published: 07th December 2011
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What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary Fiber is obtained from all edible plant produce like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and is referred to as ′Roughage′, that part of the food which cannot be digested by the Human intestine and is excreted out along with faecal matter without being digested. It offers no nutrient or calories to the body.

Depending on the solubility of the fiber in water, there are two kinds of Dietary Fiber:

Insoluble Fiber as constituted in the cell wall and woody parts of the plants. Whole Wheat Flour, Bran of different flours, raw vegetables and whole gram offer insoluble fibers.
Soluble Fiber obtained from gums and pectin’s found in apples, guavas, strawberries, carrots, citrus fruits like oranges, cereals like Oats, legumes, barley.

Role of Fiber in Human Body

1. Insoluble fibers increase faecal bulk and frequency of stools hence carrying all toxins with it.
2. Dietary Fiber is devoid of nutrients so it helps maintain satiety without providing calories. It also cuts down absorption of fat from diet.
3. Soluble Fibers delay movement of food matter in the intestine and hence allow absorption of nutrients from food.
4. Dietary Fiber reduces requirement of insulin and when combined with calorie reduced diet helps maintain blood sugar levels.

Dietary Fiber helps prevent various Chronic Disorders.

Insoluble fibers help relieve constipation, and chronic disorders of the intestine like Diverticulitis, Intestine Bowel Syndrome, Piles, Cancers of Large Intestine as it increases faecal excretion and hence excretion of toxins and bile pigments. The decrease in the time the food residue remains in the intestine helps get rid of carcinogens (cancer causing molecules).

Soluble fibers are known to prevent Coronary Heart diseases, gall stones, diabetes mellitus and obesity. Soluble fibers are known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis and also reduce absorption of fats from diets. They aid in clearance of LDL ′Bad′ cholesterols and lower blood pressure through increased absorption of magnesium and calcium. Diets high in soluble fiber are known to regulate blood sugars due to control on insulin regulation and also maintain appetite due slow digestion and delayed gastric emptying.

Who should add fiber in diet?

• People suffering from constipation, piles and related disorders
• Those having high/abnormal Lipid profile
• Diabetics
• Obese/overweight individuals

Drawback of excessive consumption of Dietary Fiber.

Excessive consumption of fibers is known to decrease the absorption of nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Who should avoid fiber in diet?

Fiber should be avoided if stomach is loose as it will worsen the condition.
Fiber intake should be reduced if one is trying to increase weight as one needs optimum consumption of calories to increase weight.

It is advised to reduce the intake of insoluble fibers for those suffering from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, liver ascites, and even congestive heart failure. Sometimes people with wheat/gluten allergies are also asked to restrict on high fiber foods.

Sources of Fiber in Diet:
• Raw vegetables
• Fruits
• Pulses especially whole pulses
• Lentils and dried peas
• Sprouts
• Whole grains cereals like whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, multi grained breakfast cereals or breads/Dalia or cracked wheat
• Millet flour like bajra, ragi, jowar
• Legume flour like sattu
• Oats, Oatmeal
• Bran of all cereals like wheat bran, oat bran, rice bran
• Brown rice/rice flakes/poha,puffed rice/murmurra
• Roasted pulses like roasted channa or soyabean.
• Popcorn
• Nuts and seeds especially flaxseed, sunflower seeds

How to increase consumption of Fiber in Diet?

1. Start the day with a high fiber breakfast by including with whole wheat/multi grained breads, Wheat bran or multi grained breakfast cereals, poha with vegetables, oatmeal.
2. Consume whole grain cereals like chappattis made of whole wheat flour or fibre rich atta i.e mix one part bran/sattu to 3 parts atta.
3. Prefer to consume Brown rice instead of white rice. If taking white rice ensure you have more salads or vegetables along with it.
4. Consume plenty of cooked or raw vegetables along with each meal.
5. Pulse preparations like rajma, channa, green moong, lobhia all provide fibre to diet.
6. Snack on fruits often especially fruits with skin like apples, pear, guava etc.
7. Avoid refined cereals like suji and maida products as in naans, white breads, and instant noodles.
8. Garnishing curries and vegetables with coriander, parsley, curry leaves also adds to the fiber content of the dish.
9. Grate raw vegetable carrots/beetroots/cabbage etc which will not only add colour but also fiber.
10. Healthy snack options are fruits, popcorn, dried fruits and nuts, seeds, roasted bengal gram, sprouts, puffed rice as these are high on fiber.
11. Read labels of processed foods to learn about the nutritive values. Choose items containing ingredients saying whole wheat, bulgar wheat, brown rice, whole grain corn, whole oats rather than refined flour, white flour, white rice, suji, cornstarch.
12. Prefer to eat fruits and vegetables with skin on them.

What is the recommended dietary allowance of fiber for Indians?

It is advised to consume 30g of dietary fiber/roughage per day or 12g per 1000 kcal. Also, as some nutritionists recommend the more you eat the more fiber you take. The proportion of soluble fibers to insoluble should be 1:2.

Should children consume fiber?

Babies and infants are not allowed fiber as their digestive tracts are delicate and require easily digestible foods.
Toddlers/Pre-schoolers/junior school children can be given dietary fiber in the form of fruits and cooked vegetable and pulse preparations. Extra fiber should not be given as they require more calories and nutrients to grow whereas fiber is zero calories. Moreover, excessive fiber intake can cause flatulence, stomach aches and loose stools in young children.
Pre-teens and teenagers can consume mount of fiber like adults. In fact, junk food and refined food should be discouraged and healthier snacks like fruits, raw vegetables, popcorns should be encouraged.

Weight Loss fun fiber-rich snacks for you from DesiDieter Nutritionists:
1. Chopped apples/pears with peanut butter.
2. Sliced carrots/cucumbers with mint and curd dip.
3. Kathi roll made with chappati and stuffed vegetables.
4. Cutlets made with mashed rajma/channas and vegetables.
5. Sprouts/pomegranate/dried fruits/seeds added to bhelpuri.
6. Golgappas filled with sprouts and served with curd dips.
7. Macaroni and vegetable salad.

Is it Okay to consume commercial preparations of Fiber?

Commercial preparations of fiber are taken as laxatives and have no long term sideffect except over dependency on the product. It is better to consume a high fiber diet rather than commercial artificial products.

Learn to cook High Fiber Snacks with DesiDieter!

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