What is fiber and why is it important?
It is a substance that can be taken mainly by ingesting plants, that is, to take vegetable fiber you must consume grains, vegetables and fruits. There are two types of fiber: soluble – present in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils and some fruits and vegetables, for example – which attracts water and turns it into a gel during digestion, slowing down The digestion; and the insoluble – present in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains – that accelerates the passage of food through the stomach and intestines, increasing the volume of feces.
According to the US Health Library – from the US National Institutes of Health – fiber should be a major component of our diet because it helps:
Control the weight.
Do the digestion.
Deal with diabetes.
Combat heart disease
Prevent colon cancer.
Avoid irritable bowel syndrome.
Decrease mortality due to cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases.
What is the daily recommended fiber intake?
The health authorities recommend that both older children, adolescents and adults eat between 20 and 35 grams, and even some entities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) – raise it up to 40 grams of fiber per day; besides advising that the smaller children take integral grains, fresh fruits and other foods rich in fiber.
The American Academy of Family Physicians specifies that men 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 38 grams of fiber per day, an intake that should be at 30 grams per day in the case of men over 50 ; while women 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, with optimum levels for those over 50 years of age at least 21 grams of fiber per day.
The World Health Organization advises eating at least five pieces or servings (or 400 g) of fruits and vegetables a day to reduce the risk of developing noncommunicable diseases and help ensure enough daily intake of dietary fiber. To improve the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the world’s leading health authority proposes:
Include vegetables in all meals.
Eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables as snacks.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
Take a varied selection of fruits and vegetables.
How to raise fiber consumption?
If our daily intake of fiber is not among the levels recommended by the health authorities, it is possible to increase it with simple changes in our diet:
Base our breakfast on cereals with high fiber content, that is, those with whole grains or containing bran, for example.
Opt for whole grains, instead of refined or processed ones; at least half of our total consumption. You can get it by eating pasta and brown rice, whole wheat or rye bread instead of white or barley.
Follow the Mediterranean diet, which is quite rich in fiber.
Take advantage of snacks to take foods high in fiber, such as nuts. And take vegetables chopped or cut into strips instead of eating chips or other snacks.
Add bran to hamburgers or other meat preparations, in addition to baking products, such as cookies.
Choose whole-grain flours when making bread or biscuits.
Use legumes when creating dishes, such as nachos with beans or dress salads with berries, almonds, cooked artichokes, chickpeas or other legumes.
Eat whole fruits, instead of juices or smoothies, and whenever possible, with well-washed skin.
Choose foods that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Always bet on foods that are great sources of fiber, such as oatmeal, popcorn without butter, almonds, figs, prunes, dates, apples, oranges, bananas, plums, pears, berries, green beans, broccoli, spinach, artichokes, peas, beans, lentils, among others.
In any case, the increase in fiber intake should be gradual in order that our digestive system -and our intestinal microbiota- get used to the change, avoiding possible effects such as abdominal swelling, flatulence or colic. Experts also advise raising the consumption of water along with high-fiber foods to help the body digest it.