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Nature Basics | 04.04.2022

High-fiber foods for a healthy digestion 

This is why a high-fiber diet is so important

Healthy nutrition: most people think of high levels of vitamins and sufficient protein. However, one important food component is often neglected: foods rich in fiber. They stimulate digestion, ensure healthy intestinal flora, and can prevent cravings. The following article explains why you should include fiber in your diet and which foods are particularly good sources of fiber.

 

What are dietary fibers?

Dietary fibers are high-fiber food components found in plant foods. Dietary fiber consists of long-chain carbohydrates. The body cannot utilize them. Dietary fiber can be divided into two groups: soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber is found primarily in oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables. Insoluble dietary fiber is found primarily in legumes, mushrooms, and whole-grain products. Insoluble fiber is hardly broken down by the bacteria in the large intestine.

 

What is the amount of dietary fiber that should be consumed daily?

The recommended amount for adults is 30 grams per day. However, if you have been eating a low-fiber diet, you should slowly increase your fiber intake. Your intestines have to get used to the high-fiber food. Apart from flatulence and diarrhea, there are no side effects to exceeding the recommendation of 30 grams per day. In addition, you should drink at least one and a half to two liters of fluid, preferably water or unsweetened teas. Only with sufficient fluid intake can dietary fiber develop its optimal effect.

 

How do high-fiber foods affect the body?

The term dietary fiber initially suggests that they are rather a burden for the body. The intestines cannot utilize them either. Nevertheless, they are important for the process of digestion and to support physical health. Soluble and insoluble fibers have different effects on the body. Soluble hydrogens initially provide a larger food volume. As a result, the stomach is more quickly led to believe that it is full. They also support the immune system and metabolism. Another important function of soluble fiber is the nourishment of intestinal bacteria. The intestinal bacteria prevent the spread of pathogens and ensure a healthy intestinal flora. A high fiber intake can also lower blood lipid levels and help the body eliminate cholesterol.

 

High-fiber diet for diabetics

A diet based on high-fiber foods is important in type 2 diabetes therapy. Dietary fiber causes blood glucose levels to rise and fall more slowly after eating. A more moderate blood glucose curve ensures a longer-lasting feeling of satiety. This can be helpful in diabetes therapy. While a fiber intake of 30 grams per day is recommended for healthy people, diabetics are even advised by the German Diabetes Society (DDG) to consume 40 grams per day. With insulin therapy, however, it is particularly important to keep an eye on blood glucose. Since the glucose contained in food is absorbed from the intestine into the body’s cells at a slower rate, the risk of hypoglycemia increases. In case of doubts, diabetic people should check their insulin dosage with their doctor if they are eating a high-fiber diet.

 

Controversial: High-fiber foods as a colon cancer preventative

Dietary fiber can bind carcinogens in food or at least reduce their concentration. They also shorten the time that the food mush spends in the intestine. As a result, harmful substances only have the opportunity to come into contact with the intestinal mucosa for a shorter time. For this reason, a diet rich in fiber is recommended for the prevention of colorectal cancer, but also as part of the aftercare of colorectal cancer. Nevertheless, it has not been clearly proven that a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Although a study showed that people who consumed less fiber had a higher risk of colorectal cancer, a direct link remains controversial among experts.

 

High-fiber diet help against constipation

Is usually harmless, but it is very unpleasant. A higher fiber intake can get the intestines moving again. The swelling plant fibers provide a more voluminous and softer stool. This allows the bowels to be emptied more regularly. Due to the stimulated intestinal activity, constipation does not occur as easily.

 

Combat obesity with high-fiber foods

Being heavily overweight poses many health risks. It puts additional strain on the bones and can lead to complaints such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Dietary fibers can be a great support in achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. They increase the volume of food, but do not contain many calories, remain mostly undigested, and yet provide a faster onset of satiety.

They even bind the calories in food, sealing them with a gel-like layer and ensuring that fewer calories are absorbed from food. This was found in studies in which participants ate the same number of calories and whose stools were subsequently examined for remaining calories. The stools of people with a diet higher in fiber showed a higher energy density. Energy that the body could not absorb due to the effect of the dietary fiber. Individuals on lower-fiber diets also had lower-energy stools, meaning they absorbed more calories from food.

In addition, as already described above, they prevent a rapid rise and fall in blood glucose levels. This reduces cravings, prevents sudden high calorie intake, and thus also helps against or as a preventive measure for obesity. Dietary fiber is found in plant foods. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds. As a rule of thumb, the longer you chew on a vegetable, the higher its fiber content. Food high in fiber includes:

 

Cereal products

Cereal products such as spelt, oats, rye and whole grains are rich in fiber. Adding a spoonful of oat bran to your yogurt or swapping out your wheat pasta for whole grain pasta can provide your body with plenty of fiber.

 

Psyllium husks

Psyllium husks have a very high fiber density, with 80 grams of fiber per 100 grams. They have a thickening and mucus-forming effect. However, adequate fluid intake should be ensured first and foremost. There are also various food supplements, with whose assistance one can support the fiber-rich nutrition. An example would be barley grass.

 

Fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables consist mainly of water, so their fiber content is rather low compared to psyllium husks or cereal products. Cabbages, carrots, potatoes, berries, kiwis, apples, and pears are nevertheless good sources of fiber. Sauerkraut, which is made from white cabbage, is not only an excellent source of fiber. It also contains lactic acid bacteria, which additionally stabilize your intestinal flora. Dried fruits such as dates, prunes, raisins, and figs also contain a lot of fiber.

 

Seeds and nuts

Chia seeds and flax seeds, as well as almonds and macadamia nuts, are rich in fiber and can easily be incorporated into your diet. A spoonful of chia or flax seeds in your cereal and a handful of nuts will help you meet your daily fiber needs.

 

Legumes

Peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas provide your body with fiber. They are also excellent sources of vegetable protein.

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