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Dietary Fiber: Why Is It Important?

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When thinking about nutrition, dietary fiber probably doesn’t top our list of nutrients of concern. The ideal amount is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women in a 2,000 calorie diet. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet, revealed that people who ate the highest amounts of fiber reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-24% compared to people who ate the least.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material and mostly can be metabolized by the good bacteria in the gut. Fruits, vegetables, barley, flaxseed, legumes and soy products are good sources of it. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and primarily provides bulk to stool and assists its movement through the digestive tract. This fiber comes from the hard structural parts of plants, such as the skins of fruits and vegetables.

When combined, these benefits can make bowel movements easier, thus reducing the chance of constipation and hemorrhoids. Furthermore, soluble fiber can slow the absorption of foods during the digestive process, which can reduce blood sugar and insulin spikes after meals. Fiber supports heart health by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad cholesterol.”

Studies show that for every 100-gram increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the risk of depression decreases by 3%.

1. Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and eat them with skins if possible because they are rich in fiber. 2. Add fiber-rich foods to your diet. You may also stir one tablespoon (15 grams) of chia seeds or 7 grams of flaxseed into oatmeal or a smoothie as they will give you an extra 3-5 grams of fiber. 3. Eat high-fiber foods. Beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of fiber. Only half a cup (192 grams) can provide around 7 grams of fiber. 4. Switch from refined to whole grains by choosing brown rice or whole-grain bread. For people who have a wheat allergy, gluten intolerance, or celiac diseases, consider eating high-fiber, gluten-free foods like millet, quinoa, buckwheat or gluten-free oats to help avoid a fiber deficiency.
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