Dietary fiber, unavailable carbohydrate or roughage are the different terms used to define that part of plant food which is not digested by the endogenous secretions of the human digestive system. Dietary fiber is found in the fruit, vegetables, and grains, in spite of being non-digestible, it is an important part of a healthy diet. It adds bulk to the diet gives the feeling of satiety, helps in digestion and prevents constipation, have the property of holding water and swell and behave like a sponge as it passes through Gastrointestinal tract.
They are of two types of fiber; soluble fiber and insoluble fiber
i. Soluble fiber is soluble in water. When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance and swells. Soluble fiber has many benefits, including moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. The scientific names for soluble fiber include pectins, gums, mucilage, and some hemicelluloses. Good sources of soluble fiber include oat and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), barley, fruits, and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).
ii. Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through the digestive system in close to its original form. Insoluble fiber offers many benefits to intestinal health, including a reduction in risk and occurrence of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, and constipation. The scientific names for the insoluble fiber include cellulose, legnins, and also some other hemicellulose. Most of the soluble fiber comes from the bran layer of the cereal grains.
Though both types of fibers are important from the Soluble fiber has been more of the interest because of its comparatively more health benefits, these are;
i. Weight control: Soluble fibers form a thick gel when it comes to contact with water in the digestive tract. This swelling effect, allied to slowing down of the digestive process, increasing the feeling of fullness (satiety) without adding calories. Fiber is, therefore, a useful element in any healthy weight loss diet
ii. Reduces blood cholesterol: Soluble fiber appears to reduce blood cholesterol levels. This is because the fiber binds with the bile acids and cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing them from being absorbed by the body.
iii. Reduces the risk of cancer: Soluble fiber has been found to reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially colon cancer, as they keep the digestive tract clean.
iv. Reduces the risk of heart diseases: As soluble fibers reduce the bad cholesterol from the blood thus also saves from the risk of coronary artery disease.
v. Provides satiety: the most important function of fiber is that it provides satiety because it adds bulk to the diet. It gives the feeling of fullness.
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