Nutritionists recommend an adequate intake of dietary fiber as part of a healthy diet. Fiber, also known as roughage, is basically food that your body can’t digest and absorb. Why do you need it then? Fiber acts as a ‘carrier’ for all the bad stuff in your body, and helps eliminate it through the stools. This process has several health benefits, as described below.
Benefits of fiber in your diet
· Reduces inflammation: Fiber eliminates inflammation causing toxins from your body and has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer.
· Removes ‘bad’ fat: Low-density lipoprotein, or the ‘bad’ fat, is eliminated from the body with fiber. This can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease.
· Lowers blood sugar: Fiber slows the absorption of sugar from the gut, so your blood sugar levels don’t have sudden spikes after meals. This is especially helpful if you have a family history of diabetes.
· Improves bowel movements: By adding bulk to the stools and softening them, fiber prevents constipation and regulates bowel movements.
· Helps with weight control: Fiber helps you get fuller faster, so your overall intake of food reduces.
Is too much fiber bad?
Despite its numerous health benefits, consuming large quantities of fiber may not be good for you. Too much fiber can cause abdominal distress, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Excess fiber also decreases absorption of essential elements like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and you can develop deficiency of these elements. Another serious effect of too much fiber is intestinal blockage. This happens if you don’t consume enough water while taking in excess fiber. The fiber becomes sticky and can block your intestinal passage, causing severe pain.
How much fiber should I have each day?
The Recommended Daily Allowance of fiber varies with your age and gender. Women below the age of 50 years should try to get at least 25 g of fiber in their daily diet, while men should take at least 38 g. Above 50 years, the Daily Recommended Allowance is 21 g for women and 30 g for men. Remember to drink at least one to two liters of water each day for maximum benefit. While small increases above these limits are fine, exceeding 70 g of fiber a day can cause abdominal discomfort.
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