In The 6 Essential Nutrients to Have a Balanced Diet, I have mentioned that some say this should actually be “the 7 essential nutrients” because dietary fiber should be included as well. This poses of course the question “What is the function of dietary fiber?”.
Our ancestors had a diet rich in fiber. Gradually, a large part of our food has been refined and stripped of nutrients and fibers.
In the US, 40% of the inhabitants eat fast food every day, which does not contain any fiber. In Europe, most people eat an average of 15 grams of fiber per day, which should be double the amount.
Most of us know we’re supposed to eat a diet rich in fiber. Despite this basic knowledge, many people are confused by what fiber is and how to get it. And because a large percentage has or is cutting back on carbohydrates, we’re also cutting back on fiber.
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Table of contents
What exactly is dietary fiber?
Fiber, dietary fiber, is essentially a non-digestible carbohydrate; your body cannot break it down and digest it. Dietary fiber is divided into two main categories: soluble or insoluble.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and therefore moves through the bowel without any type of breakdown. It is, so to speak, a broom that wipes our gut clean. The result is regular stools and constant removal of build-up in the intestines.
- Whole-wheat grains;
Soluble fibers absorb a lot of moisture and form a gel-like structure in the stomach and intestines. This stimulates bowel movement and protects our intestinal wall against inflammation.
How much soluble and insoluble fiber should we be taking?
Despite the fact that a great number of people have an intake of fiber of about 5 to 14 grams per day, adult women should consume 25-30 grams of fiber a day and men should consume 35-40 grams a day.
Avoid a high-fiber meal right before you exercise. The chance of stomach or intestinal problems is high if your stomach contains a lot of fiber.
Great sources of fiber
In order to make sure you’re getting enough fiber, it’s important to understand what foods to get it from. Great sources of fiber include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Pak Choi;
- Brussels Sprouts;
- Sweet Potatoes.
- Whole grains
- Whole Grain Bread.
- Seeds & Nuts
- Chia Seeds;
- Nut Butters (Almond, Hazelnut, Peanut);
- Pumpkin Seeds;
- Tahini (Sesame Paste).
- Black Beans;
- Split Peas;
- White Beans.
- Apples with peel;
- Dried Plums;
- Psyllium husk
There are no fibers in meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and little or none in refined products.
For example, ¼ cup of almonds contains 2,4 grams of fiber. A medium apple contains 4 grams. So one small snack of almonds and an apple contains about 1/4 of a woman’s daily fiber requirements.
To get a meal that packs a real fiber punch, add beans. A cup of prepared beans contains 16 grams of fiber; that’s half of your daily requirement! And whole grains like buckwheat, bran, bulgur, and oats contain a significant amount of fiber. Leafy greens are great as well; a cup of cooked spinach has 7 grams of fiber.
Health benefits of fibers
A high-fiber diet has several health benefits, as studies and clinical trials have shown. By eating more dietary fiber, we can solve some existing discomforts. Fiber is also an excellent preventative against disease.
- Stimulate our metabolism;
- Balances blood sugar;
- Reduces inflammation;
- Help lose weight because we feel full;
- Lowers cholesterol;
- Balances hormones;
- Keep intestines healthy;
- Improves stool;
- Support immunity;
- Reduces the risk of diabetes2, lung disease, and heart disease;
- Remove toxins.
Is dietary fiber a prebiotic?
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of one or more types of bacteria in the large intestine, thereby promoting the health of the host.
Fermentable fibers are broken down by the bacteria in our gut. We call some fermentable fibers prebiotics, so food for our gut bacteria. In other words, all prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotic.
Prebiotics should not be confused with probiotics, which are living organisms that produce a similar effect.
A solution for flatulence and bloating
Previously I have written about peppermint essential oil as a solution for bloating or stomach discomfort. Another way to avoid gas and bloating is to eat plenty of dietary fiber.
Currently, I add a teaspoon of Gut Feeling from Your Super to my usual glass of water every morning as soon as I get up.
It’s a super-easy way to make sure I’m getting enough fiber. We only eat twice a day and especially in a warm summer, such as the one we have at the moment, I tend to eat too little.
A recipe for a healthy green smoothie
I got this recipe from Your Super with my order and it is delicious!
- 1 tsp Gut Feeling Mix
- 30 g spinach
- 1 small apple
- 100 g (frozen or fresh) pineapple
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 small chunk of ginger
- 250 ml water
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until everything is smooth.
Pour into a cup or glass and enjoy!
I like sour apples the most, but taste is a personal thing. I also replaced the water with 125 ml almond milk and 125 ml coconut milk.
What is the function of dietary fiber?
Our body loves dietary fiber. It is also called – rightly – a superfood or supernutrient. Most people eat too little fiber. Since there are so many foods that contain fiber, it shouldn’t be that hard to eat more of them.
In addition, there are also supplements that are specifically intended to increase fiber intake.
Have at least one serving of whole grains, beans, and healthy snacks like raw fruits and vegetables, or nuts to make sure you’re consuming your daily fiber requirement. A bit of fiber with each snack and meal should be enough to keep your body running optimally and to stay healthy.
Which source of fiber I have mentioned do you like most? Tell us in the comment box below.