Resource post for September: Fibers for our health



What are fibers?

Fibers come from plant materials. Our body cannot digest or absorb fibers. They seldom provide vitamins and nutrients. Yet, fibers in our diet are very important to our health.  A lot of fibers are actually in carbohydrates that you eat – yes, carbs – that dreaded word that seems to give weight watchers nightmares. Don’t worry. Fibers are special.

Why are fibers so important?

Fibers help in the digestion process. As they move through the digestive tract, they facilitate the absorption of water but block the absorption of cholesterol and other fats. Foodstuffs rich in fibers are usually low in calories, yet they are very filling making them ideal foodstuff for dieters!

According to the British Nutrition Foundation:

There are 2 kinds of fibers in our diet: soluble and insoluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber goes through the digestive tract largely undigested and is important in the functioning of the digestive system. This type of fiber can be found in whole-grain cereals, leguminous vegetables, and fruits eaten with skin.

Soluble or viscous fiber on the other hand, is transformed in the intestine into a gel-like substance and is especially important for cardiovascular health. It hinders the absorption of cholesterol and fats through the walls of the digestive tract. By simply increasing your daily fiber intake, you are decreasing the the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood.

How much fiber do we need in our diet?

Different health authorities have different recommendations as to how much dietary fiber we need on a daily basis. It all depends mainly on age and calorie intake.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends a daily allowance of 30 to 38 grams dietary fiber for men and 21 to 25 grams for women. The ADA’s recommendation for children should be calculated as the child’s age plus 5 grams per day.

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends a minimum fiber intake of 18 g per day for healthy adults.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following dietary fiber intake for children:

Gender/Age

Fiber (grams)

1 to 3 years

19

4 to 8 years

25

9 to 13 years

 

            Female

26

            Male

31

14 to 18 years

 

            Female

29

            Male

38

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber for men aged 50 and below and 25 grams for women of the same age. Those older than 20 are recommended to have 30 and 25 grams for men and women, respectively.

It is however a general observation that the majority of the population’s daily intake of dietary fiber is far below these recommendation.

How do we increase our fiber intake?

Although an increase in dietary fiber intake is recommended, a sudden change in diet can lead to stomach problems such as cramps and bloating. Increasing fiber in the diet should therefore be done gradually. Here are some tips from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI):

  • For breakfast, eat whole grain cereals such as oatmeal or bran.
  • Add fruit to cereals such as apple, bananas, and berries. Eat fruit together with the skin whenever possible. A large portion of fruit fiber is in the skin.
  • Eat whole, unprocessed fruit instead of or in addition to drinking fruit juice. A whole orange has six times more fiber than 1 glass of orange juice.
  • Add more fresh vegetables in your diet. For salads, add beans such as white, black, kidney beans or lentils.
  • Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread.

What are the main sources of dietary fiber?

The table below provided by NHLBI summarizes the most common food sources of fiber:

 

Reading resources:

Dietary Fiber: An Important Link in the Fight Against Heart Disease (ADA)

Barley: A Healthy Heart Solution (ADA)

Whole Grains Made Easy (ADA)

Cholesterol, Fiber and Oat Bran (AHA)

Fiber and Children’s Diets (AHA)

Dietary fiber: An essential part of a healthy diet (Mayo Clinic)

 

Photo credits

Cereal 1 by blackcat79

Bread by alexkalina

Beans by biearwicke

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the educative information…The information will help many to increase their metabolism and improve their health. There’s a great deal of helpful medical information about children and cholesterol know more, click here

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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