In nature, all food items like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains come with fiber, the non-digestible part of the food. This is the nature’s way of packaging the nutrients with an antidote to circumvent any negative impact of that nutrient may have on health. For example, the fiber in fruit reduces the burden of fructose on blood sugar. Similarly, in the whole grains, the fiber helps to reduce its glycemic index.

Dietary fiber is the non-digestible part of a carbohydrate. This means that fiber passes intact from stomach and small intestine to large intestine and out of your body. Dietary fiber contains a unique blend of bioactive components including resistant starches, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants

Soluble and Insoluble Fibre

Fibre is classified into soluble or insoluble based on whether it is dissolvable in water.

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber is dissolvable in water. It absorbs water to form a gel in the gut. It helps to keep stools soft, making them easier to pass, which help to prevent or treat constipation. Soluble fibre are also said to increase the bio-availabilty of certain nutrients like calcium. Beans, oat bran, barley, avocado, and berries are good sources of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber also helps to flush out Low-Density Lipid-Protein or LDL out of your body.

Insoluble fiber

The insoluble fiber as the name suggests does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the stool and helps food to pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. Whole grains, beans, flaxseeds, leafy vegetables, and nuts are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Fiber can also be classified as fermentable or non-fermentable. Normal bacteria residing in the large intestine ferment certain undigested fiber into the short chain fatty acids. Generally, soluble fiber is more fermentable than insoluble.

Top 5 Benefits of dietary fiber

Fibre helps in weight management

High fiber foods require more chewing, which may help to reduce food intake.  Further, fiber bulks up foods and decrease its energy density. This effect helps to fill the stomach and increase satiety.  Increased bulk also means that stomach takes more time to empty. This helps a person to feel full for a longer period of time and reduce calorie intake and absorption. Many studies have demonstrated the inverse relation of high dietary fiber with obesity. In short, fiber may decrease food intake, slowdowns food absorption in the stomach and small intestine then help it exit quickly through the large intestine.

Fibre helps in controlling blood sugar

Soluble fiber helps to reduce the absorption of carbohydrates which in turn reduces blood glucose and insulin levels. In essence fiber act as a sort of antidote to carbohydrates and calories. There are many studies to show that people who ate high glycemic index diet but also ate a large amount of fiber are able to keep type 2 diabetes at bay. But a deadly combination of a high-glycemic index diet with low fiber increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by whopping 75 percent.

Fibre helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases

Soluble fiber acts like a sponge and flushes out the Low-Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol out of the body. It also excretes bile acids.  The loss of bile acids in stools stimulate the liver to increase the uptake of LDL from circulation. This results in the reduction of both total cholesterol and LDL. Studies have also shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation. A 1986 Harvard study found that high dietary fiber intake is linked to 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart diseases. Cereal fiber is particularly beneficial in maintaining cardiovascular health. 

Fibre helps to regularize bowel movement and relieve constipation

The roughage that insoluble fiber creates not only increases the weight and volume of your stool but it also softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. Also, fiber helps to prevent hemorrhoids and diverticular diseases. Hemorrhoids result when veins around the anus and/or rectum become inflamed or swollen.

Fibre helps in natural detoxification and prevent chronic diseases

The bacteria in the colon ferment the dietary soluble fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). About 40 percent of fiber may be metabolized this way. These fatty acids have many health benefits including a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer. Various studies have shown that SCFA helps keep colon cells healthy, prevents the growth of tumor cells and encourages cancer cell destruction in the colon. Fibre also acts as a natural detox by scrubbing and flushing out the toxins from the body.

Include fiber in your diet

Natural foods have a balance of nutrients and fiber. Increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes in your diet. According to a Harvard study, for every 10 gm of carbohydrate, you require 1 gm of fiber to balance it out. Follow this 10: 1 rule in your diet ensure that you consume atleast 25-30 gm of dietary fiber every day.