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Fiber adds bulk to meals and helps food move through the digestive tract. Fiber dense food items help one feel satiated for long, therefore curbing untimely hunger pangs. Numerous researches have also signaled its efficacy in improving heart health, digestion, and diabetes among its many health benefits.
Unfortunately, our modern diet, more or less, is a departure from whole grains to a world defined by processed items and refined ingredients. When an item of consumption undergoes processing, it is made more refined and is usually stripped off its inherent nutritional qualities. In such a scenario, one of the many and commonly lost elements would certainly be fiber. As we move away from our traditional eating practices, fiber slowly disappears from our regular diet. National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, recommends 25-40 gm of fiber/day as a part of a balanced meal. Dietary fiber can usually be derived from fruits, vegetables and grains. Meat, fish, and dairy do not contain any fiber. Dietary fiber can be classified into two types - insoluble and soluble, both extremely vital for the functioning of our body. Interestingly, almost all fiber rich sources are enriched with both. Here is a closer look at the two variants and their role in maintaining good health: Insoluble Fiber: This cannot be digested/broken down by the digestive system and passes through the gut as it is. Hemicellulose, Cellulose, and Lignin are the types of insoluble fiber found in our food. Insoluble fiber keeps the gut healthy and prevents digestive problems. It aids in regular bowel movements and is also known to be beneficial for hemorrhoids, and irregularities in passing stool. It adds bulk to the food we eat, resulting in early satiety. It also helps in satisfying hunger for a longer period. Sources of Insoluble Fiber: Cellulose found in whole wheat, bran, vegetables. Hemicellulose found in bran, whole grains. Lignin derived from ripe vegetables, wheat, fruits with skin and flaxseeds. Soluble Fiber: As the name suggests, this type is capable of getting dissolved in the intestinal fluids. Soluble fiber helps control cholesterol by latching on to it and keeping it from getting absorbed in the body. It also helps in curbing LDL (bad cholesterol) in blood. High fiber foods have also been found to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure. Phsyllium-Isabgol is another commonly used soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is calorie free and does not add to the glucose load of the meal. It prevents sugar spikes by slowing down the absorption of food from the gut. It is also gives relief from constipation. Sources of Soluble Fiber: Gums derived from oats, legumes, barley; Pectin sourced from apples, citrus fruits, strawberries and carrots. How to Add Fiber to Your Diet Fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and legumes should be among the regular visitors at your eating table. Choose from a variety of whole grains or items like cookies and breads made from the same. Opt for items like dalia, oats or a variety of millets. You can add wheat bran to your dough to make a fiber rich roti. If you are eating ready-to-eat cereals, look for foods with at least 5 gm of fiber /serving on the label. Legumes and whole dals like rajma, lobhia, soybean, channa are all good sources of fiber. Consume whole dals or sprouts at least once a day. Also, take at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits make for a great snack option and in addition to fiber, they are enriched with vitamins and minerals too. Fiber is an indispensable component in a balanced meal. Increase your fiber intake gradually, as sudden excessive consumption may trigger gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Make an effort to include staples, dals, vegetables and fruits in your daily diet to reap the many benefits of a fiber-rich diet.
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