Fiber used to be called “roughage” in the old days. It is only found in foods of plant origin such as beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits. It passes through the body with very little change in the digestive system and is not absorbed to any appreciable degree. That means that fiber provides few or no calories, yet it still provides us with numerous health benefits.
Fiber provides many benefits. While maintaining the health of the digestive tract, it also lowers the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. It helps control the appetite, so it’s easier to keep weight in check. Because it is found only in plant foods, vegetarians tend to have very high fiber intakes, which may be one of the reasons vegetarians are generally healthier and slimmer than meat–eaters.
Fiber helps to prevent and manage:
- Constipation: Fiber helps prevent constipation.
- Weight control: Fiber is filling, has almost no calories, and helps maintain blood sugar—all factors that help control hunger and body weight.
- Preventing Certain Diseases
Getting enough Fiber in the diet can lower the risk of developing certain conditions:
- Heart disease. Evidence is now growing to support the notion that foods containing soluble fiber (such as oats, rye barley, and beans) can have a positive influence on cholesterol, triglycerides, and other particles in the blood that affect the development of heart disease. Some fruits and vegetables (such as citrus fruits and carrots) have been shown to have the same effect.
- Cancer. The passage of food through the body is speeded up when fiber is eaten. Some experts believe this may prevent harmful substances found in some foods from affecting the colon and may protect against colon cancer. Other types of cancer that are linked with over-nutrition and may be prevented by a fiber-rich diet include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer.
- Diabetes. Adding fiber to the diet helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is important in avoiding diabetes. In addition, some people with diabetes can achieve a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels and may find they can reduce their medication.
- Diverticular disease. Diverticular disease is a condition in which small pouches, called diverticula, develop in the wall of the colon. In a small percentage of people, these diverticula become inflamed or infected, a condition known as diverticulitis. Diverticular disease can cause pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other problems.
- Gallstones and kidney stones. Rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gallstones and kidney stones (in addition to diabetes and high cholesterol).