Fiber is an essential part of your diet. Its benefits are acknowledged and promoted by medical doctors, nutritionists, and weight loss specialists. Dietary fiber cleanses the colon, reduces incidence of cancer and helps you feel full for longer periods of time.
High-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Whole grain breads and cereals, kidney beans, raw broccoli and carrots, cabbage, peas, apples and peaches are just a few examples of foods with high fiber content. Fiber is the part of the food that cannot be digested. Examples include the bran in grains, cell walls of vegetables, and fruit pulp. Animal products have practically low fiber content.
Benefits of Fiber
All fiber improves intestinal functioning, but some fiber is more useful than others. For example, wheat bran has very little impact on cholesterol. However, the fiber in oats and fruits such as apples and cherries helps to eliminate cholesterol from the digestive tract. Fiber encourages healthy bacteria in the colon, which helps in better absorption of nutrients. Fiber is known to help cure or prevent appendicitis, colon cancer, constipation and hemorrhoids.
One study conducted by the UK Medical Research Council observed the diets of over half a million people in ten countries. Those whose diets were higher in fiber (33 grams per day) had less incidence of colon cancer as compared with those who ate the least amount of fiber (12 grams per day). This study concluded that if you eat little fiber you can reduce your colon cancer risk by 40% by doubling your fiber intake.
Different studies have shown conflicting results regarding the ability of fiber to prevent cancer. Studies that have reviewed the impact of fiber supplements did not find a decrease in the risk of colon polyps, which are growths inside the colon that can become cancerous if left untreated. The implication is that the healthier way to consume fiber is through whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Fiber and Weight Loss
For weight loss purposes, foods that are high in fiber are higher volume foods. These foods take longer by the body to digest, allowing dieters to feel full for longer periods of time. Additionally, the combination of including wholesome high-fiber foods in the diet and feeling full longer often prevents cravings for empty calories that are high in fat and sugar.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Fiber
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as constipation, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and gas. Fiber helps to reduce the constipation associated with this condition. However, if you have IBS you may experience greater abdominal discomfort after suddenly increasing your intake of fiber. For this type of situation, it is often recommended that you increase your fiber intake a little bit at a time to allow the body to make adjustments.
All in all, you can benefit from increasing your fiber intake. If your diet consists largely of animal products and little or no fruits, vegetables and whole grains, an increase in fiber is a healthy addition.