• Dr. Vani Chopra

Fiber: The Complex Carbohydrate — Made Simple!

Updated: Mar 3, 2019



Fiber is a complex undigested carbohydrate and through this article, I will answer some basic questions on fiber and how it is beneficial to you !


What does complex undigested mean ? How is it a carbohydrate and yet does not break down to sugars in the body?


It adds bulk to the food. Unlike other carbohydrates, fiber cannot be broken down and passes out of the body undigested.


How is fiber beneficial and essential to our diet ?


It takes care of hunger- by giving a feeling of fullness It takes care of constipation — by regulating bowels It regulates blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels


How does one incorporate fiber in the diet?


First lets get a deeper insight about dietary fiber. There are two kinds — soluble and insoluble.


Soluble fiber as the name suggests dissolves in water and forms a gel.



This kind is present in oats,beans, lentils, nuts, blueberries, apples, barley, carrots, citrus fruits.


Soluble fiber is known to regulate blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.






Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and facilitates the movement of food through the body and helps regulate the bowel system.











This kind is present in foods like whole wheat products — whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, whole grain products & brown rice.












Both categories of fiber have their own benefits and it is important to get a little bit of either variety to maximize the health benefits.



Making high fiber choices

Some ways to do that:


Eat the whole fruit rather than squeezing out its nourishment and drinking its juiceLook for “Whole grain”/ “Whole wheat” and NOT just ‘Wheat’ on products like bread, pasta, couscous.Incorporate brown rice instead of white rice into your meal.Stick to fresh produce of fruits and vegetables — example — snacking on raw vegetable sticks like celery, carrots, radish, broccoli and fruits.Incorporate vegetable protein like legumes in your diet as they are rich in fiber.





Dietary fiber compared to fiber supplements? Can I have my daily requirement of dietary fiber through fiber supplements?



We all hear and know that fiber is good for health. But in recent times, it seems that people are trying to get their daily fiber fix using fiber supplements sold in the market such as Metamucil.









Fiber supplements are isolated sources of fiber which means they are concentrated with fiber and are devoid of the wholesomeness of dietary fiber present in foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains etc.



Do not assume that fiber supplements will have the same healthy benefits like dietary fiber.


There is a small proportion of fiber supplements in the market which have clinically proven to have health benefits. Research suggests that soluble non-fermenting, gel-forming fiber in the form of supplement may provide health benefits — example psyllium (Isabgol — product name in India)




FINAL VERDICT:



Overall, I would recommend consuming adequate amount of dietary fiber — 25–30g/day by incorporating foods like whole fruits and vegetables, whole-grain and whole wheat products & brown rice into your meals.







Stick to whole food and stay away from supplements as much as you can !!! Research suggests that fiber supplements may not provide the health benefits that dietary fiber provide.

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