All plant based foods contain some amount of fiber. Fibers help the plants to maintain its structure and shape as it is made up of cellulose, pectin and gum. Nowadays, researchers and medical practitioners recommend people to include more fiber rich foods in their diet, as they have fully understood the importance of fiber in preventing disease and maintaining health. Dietary fiber is also referred as roughage.
Fiber present in plant food cannot be digested or absorbed unlike food’s other components such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Fiber passes through the whole gastrointestinal tract intact and is eliminated out through stool. The main source of fiber is cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.
There are two types of dietary fiber, namely soluble and insoluble. However, most plant foods contain both this fibers.But some foods may contain lesser amount of one while some may contain more.
- Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form into gel like substance. Due to the ability to retain water, soluble fiber acts like sponge in the intestine and stomach. It increases the bulk of stool making it softer and easier to expel out. Best source of soluble fiber is oats, pulses, apples, citrus fruits, barley, and psyllium husk.
- Insoluble fibers do not dissolve is water. It also helps the food to move efficiently in the intestine and stomach. It also helps the stool to remain soft and bulky. Insoluble fiber is beneficial for people suffering from constipation as it increases the motility. Wheat, maize, rice, vegetables, nuts, potatoes, green peas, broccoli etc are good source of insoluble fibers.
To receive the maximum health benefit, eat wide range of food that contain high amount of both the fibers. Below are given the best food choices that are rich in fibers:
- Cereals: Oatmeal, barley, oatbran, brown rice, wheat, maize.
- Legumes, seeds and nuts: Lentils, black beans, lima beans, split beans, grounded psycillium seeds, almonds, pistachio, dried figs etc.
- Fruits: Banana, apple, strawberry, blueberry, peach, plum, pear, orange, grapefruit, sweet lime, prunes, watermelon, etc.
- Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, artichoke, sweet corn, potato baked or boiled with skin, tomato, etc. All the vegetables should be boiled.
Health Benefits Of Eating Fiber Rich Foods
Although dietary fiber has little or no nutritional value, it is beneficial for the body in many ways. Following are the benefits of high fiber foods;
- Constipation: Fiber can help to prevent constipation as it increases stool bulk. It also speeds up the passage of stool through the large intestine. It makes the stool soft as it has ability to absorb water.
- Diarrhea: Fiber foods are also beneficial when the stools are watery and loose. It solidifies the stool as it absorbs water. Therefore, patients are often advised to eat apples, bananas when they suffer from diarrhea.
- Hemorrhoids and fissures: Diet rich in fibers is beneficial for preventing piles and fissures. Generally eating high fiber foods helps to prevent colon disorders which also includes serious diseases such as colon cancer.
- Lowers cholesterol: Fiber diet reduces the cholesterol level. It reduces the density of bad cholesterol and thus reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Sugar control: Fibers in small intestine slows down absorption of glucose in the blood. Thus it prevents sudden rise and fall of sugar level, which is beneficial for people suffering from diabetes.
- Healthy weight: High fiber diet keeps you full for a longer time. Hence a person remains satiated for a long time. At the same time high fiber has very less calories as compared to the same volume of low fiber foods. Obese people should therefore eat more fiber containing foods to reduce their weight.