Fiber-Functions, Role And Tips To Add Fiber To The Diet

Fiber, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body can’t break down. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. This article tells you about the role and functions and tips to add fiber to the diet.

Fiber passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. 9Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules.

Dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in foods. It splits into two categories based on its water solubility:

  1. Soluble fiber: Dissolves in water and can be metabolized by the “good bacteria” in the gut.
  2. Insoluble fiber: Does not dissolve in water.

Non-digestible carbohydrates are collectively known as fiber. They are most often categorized as soluble or insoluble.

Functions Of Fiber

Fiber has physical properties such as holding capacity, cation binding capacity and viscosity, whereas physiological properties include hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects. The dietary fiber in the diet holds water and behave likes a sponge as it passes through gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The dietary fiber adds bulk to the diet and increases transit time of food in the gut.

The soluble dietary fiber (SDF) fractions such as pectin, gums and mucilages may undergo fermentation in the colon by microflora present in the colon. In recent years, it is suggested that some amount of dietary fibermust be present in the diet.

The insoluble dietary fiber (IDF) is known to reduce constipation and diverticulosis, the SDF is effective in reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), type 2 diabetes (NIDDM- Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) and obesity. The possible mechanisms of hypoglycemic effects of SDF are:

  1. SDF binds to large quantity of water and becomes viscous in the stomach. It delays the secretions if GI tract to reduce digestion of food material and finally delaying the glucose absorption.
  2. As a result delayed absorption of glucose, secretion of insulin by the pancreas is also delayed, as evidenced by circulating levels of insulin.
  3. The decreased circulating levels of insulin activate the receptors in target organs which will result in increased insulin sensitivity.

The possible mechanism of action of SDF on reduced incidence of CHD could be due to either it’s hypolipidemic or it’s hypocholesterolemic effects. These effects are attributed to the following procases:

  1. It delays digestion of food particles in stomach resulting in the delay in cholesterol absorption.
  2. It binds to bile salts and prevents its reabsorption resulting in a decrease in circulating levels of cholesterol.
  3. It removes bile acids and neutral sterols by excretion through faeces.
  4. The SDF yields short chain fatty acids (SCFA) due to fermentation in the colon. The SCFA are carried to liver by bile circulating and inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis.

Role Of Fiber

  • Fiber has water binding and absorbing capacity and this increase the bulk of your stool and speed up the movement of your stool through the intestine. Helps to prevent constipation.
  • Foods that contain viscous fiber have a lower glycemic index and cause smaller spikes in blood sugar than foods that are low in fiber.
  • Some types of fiber can reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Fiber can cause weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness, leading to a reduced calorie intake.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. High intake of fiber-rich foods with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
  • Whole high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain various other healthy nutrients and antioxidants that may affect cancer risk.
  • Viscous, soluble fiber may reduce your appetite, lower cholesterol levels and decrease the rise in blood sugar after high-carb meals.

Tips For Adding Fiber To The Diet

  • Choose fresh fruits rather than canned fruits or juices.
  • Leave the skins on fruits such as apples, pears and peaches.
  • Use brown rice rather than white rice.
  • Choose whole-grain cereals and pulses.
  • Choose raw vegetable and fresh fruits for snacks.
  • Leave the skins on vegetables such as potatoes, squash and carrots.
  • Eat foods in their most naturally occurring state.
  • Have a serving of dried beans or peas daily.
  • Have a salad every day.