Along with the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates and essential fats, fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. Fiber is different from other food components, such as protein or fats, in that it is not digested. Fiber is the part of plant foods that is indigestible. Although it is not absorbed by the body, fiber provides many health benefits. Developing a high fiber diet plan includes learning which foods to eat and how to incorporate the right amount of fiber into your diet without developing complications.
What Are The Types Of Dietary Fiber?
The two types of dietary fiber include insoluble and soluble fiber. The difference between the types of fiber are that soluble fiber partially dissolves in water, while insoluble does not. Neither type of fiber is digestible; however, soluble fiber does go through some changes as it travels through the digestive track.
Both types of fiber need to be incorporated into a high fiber diet plan since they provide different health benefits. For instance, diverticulitis is a common disease that causes small pouches to develop in the colon. The pouches can become inflamed and painful. Eating a diet high in insoluble fiber is believed to lower the risk of diverticulitis by about 40 percent, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
Benefits Of A High Fiber Diet
Most people have heard that fiber should be a part of their diet, but just how beneficial fiber can be may surprise some. Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber can help lower levels of bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
A diet high in both insoluble and soluble fiber is important for people who have or are at a high risk for developing diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, increasing soluble fiber in the diet can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes by slowing down the absorption of sugar. The chances of developing type 2 diabetes are also decreased in people who eat a diet high in insoluble fiber.
Although most people will experience an occasional bout of constipation, it tends to occur more frequently in the elderly. A high fiber diet can help decrease the chances constipation will develop. An additional benefit of a high fiber diet is it may help with weight loss. Eating fiber rich foods can help dieters feel full faster and therefore eat less.
When creating a high fiber diet plan, there are several tips that can help make the change easier and reduce the likelihood of complications. First, it is important to know how much dietary fiber to consume. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most adults should eat a minimum of 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.
One way to add more fiber to a diet is by trading fruit juice in the morning for a piece of whole fruit. There is more fiber in a piece of fruit, and it also tends to have fewer calories than fruit juice.
Since a sudden increase in fiber may lead to stomach cramps and other intestinal discomforts, increasing fiber slowly is recommended. Even small dietary changes can add up. For instance, switch processed white bread for whole grain breads made from oat or wheat bran.
Fiber can bulk up bowel movements, therefore, it is also helpful to drink plenty of water when increasing fiber in the diet.
Selecting Good Sources of Fiber
There are several good sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can be included daily as part of a high fiber diet plan. Sources of insoluble fiber include a variety of fruits and vegetables including apples, raspberries and broccoli. When choosing fruit and vegetables keep in mind, the highest content of fiber is in the skin and pulp. Root vegetables and green leafy vegetables, such as carrots, spinach and potatoes, are also good high fiber choices.
Foods, such as breads, crackers, pasta and cereals made from whole grains are good choices for a high fiber diet plan. Wheat and oat bran are two grains, which have the highest content of fiber. Additional foods high in soluble fiber include barley and legumes, such as peas, lentils and beans.
Even when eating healthy, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. Since fiber is not digested, eating too much, too soon can lead to bloating and increased gas. Some people may also develop diarrhea if they eat too much fiber. Fiber should be increased gradually over a period of six weeks. This allows the body time to adjust to the increase.
Although it may decrease constipation in some people, increased fiber can also have the opposite affect and lead to constipation. Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water, may help reduce this complication.
The many health benefits of eating a diet high in fiber usually outweigh any complications for most people. Since fiber rich foods can be found in various food groups including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, it is often relatively easy to find ways to create a high fiber diet plan.