Fiber plays an important role in keeping your body healthy, and you need to consume it every day. It is a form of carbohydrates found in plants, such as vegetables, fruits and grains. Although fiber is a carbohydrate, it does not contain any calories. Plants contain several different types of fiber, including pectin, gum, cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose, which can be divided into water-soluble and insoluble fiber.
The digestive enzymes in your body do not digest fiber; thus, fiber does not contain any calories. However, eating fiber-containing foods may help you feel “full” due to absorption of water. The Colorado State University Extension reports that fiber-containing foods may actually reduce your calorie intake. Foods high in fiber require more chewing; thus, it takes more time to eat them. This can help you get full with less food and consume fewer number of calories.
Pectin and gum are water-soluble fibers, found in foods such as beans, oat bran, fruit and vegetables. Cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin are insoluble fibers, found in wheat bran, whole grain, vegetables and beans. Fiber content differs considerably between different foods; a half cup of beans has up to 10 grams of fiber, a third cup of bran cereal has 9 grams of fiber, a half cup of artichoke hearts has 7 grams of fiber and one medium pear has 5.5 grams of fiber.
Every healthy diet should contain water-soluble and insoluble fiber. The recommended daily intake for fiber is 14 grams per every 1,000 calories you consume. This comes to an average of 25 grams of fiber for adult women and 38 grams of fiber for adult men. However, the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010” reports that the typical American diet contains only around 15 grams of fiber per day. This suggests you should evaluate your daily fiber intake to ensure you are getting the recommended level every day.
Soluble and insoluble fiber have several health benefits. Water-soluble fibers bind bile acids that are digestive liquids made from cholesterol. Consuming a high-fiber diet may lead to increased exertion of bile acids and thus increased removal of cholesterol from your body. Insoluble fiber binds water as it travels through your digestive tract. This helps make stools softer and bulkier and may help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Dietary fiber may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.”
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