What are Dietary Fibers, and Why do We Need Them?

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Riin Rehemaa
Social Media & Community Manager

There are many trends and beliefs spreading in the world of nutrition, and sometimes it’s hard for us to stay grounded in this flood of information. It is clear that everyone is different, and therefore our body functions differently, but we all still need some kind of solid foundation upon which to build our health. One of these cornerstones is dietary fiber.

For the most part, food composition can be divided into proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Fibers belong to carbohydrates, being compound sugars or polysaccharides.

Their chemical structure is much more complicated than some ordinary fruit sugar. The body is unable to digest fiber, and thus they travel in an undigested form to the large intestine, where they are partially broken down by the bacteria living there. So fiber is food for gut bacteria, and that’s what makes them so important and special to us.

It is also important that fiber is found only in plant foods. So it is important that our food table contains a lot of different plants, spices, and what has grown in the bed. Women should eat an average of 25g and men 35g of fiber per day.

Fibers are food for our gut bacteria

As previously mentioned, fiber is food for gut bacteria. Namely, trillions of bacteria live with you daily, 99% of which are located in your digestive tract and of which, in turn, 99% reside in your large intestines.

These bacteria help your body get the maximum amount of energy from food, and they also produce vitamins and other compounds that keep your immune and nervous system and metabolism functioning normally. Your mood also stays stable thanks to the bacteria because 90% of the happy hormone serotonin is synthesized in the gut! Therefore, gut bacteria are of utmost importance for your well-being and health, and it is worth taking care of them.

Different bacteria need different types of fiber for food. So we need to eat various plants to get these different kinds of fibers. According to research, eating at least 30 different plants a week would be good for keeping the gut bacteria nourished and healthy.

Dietary fibers have different functions

In addition to being food for gut bacteria, dietary fibers serve various functions in our body.

Dietary fibers:

  • help to keep the gut microbiome diverse and, therefore, in good health,
  • help lower blood pressure,
  • help maintain normal blood glucose levels by removing excess blood sugar from the body,
  • help reduce the risk of obesity, bowel cancer, and type 2 diabetes,
  • lower cholesterol levels by binding excess cholesterol to itself and carrying it out of the stomach with feces,
  • increase the volume of feces, thanks to which your feces pass more quickly and regularly,
  • make digestion smoother. This means that fiber helps relieve both constipation and diarrhea at the same time,
  • keep the stomach full for longer and thus help prevent snacking and contribute to weight loss.

This list could be continued because fiber really plays an important role in our digestion.

Adding fibers to your daily menu

If, while reading, you start thinking that there are not enough plants in your diet and you won’t get any good properties that fiber has to offer, we recommend that you take a breath and take it easy. Suppose your menu has previously been low in fiber, then you should start adding fiber-rich food gradually because otherwise, your stomach bacteria will go into shock with a large amount of fiber. Bloating, gas, pain, constipation, and other symptoms may occur. So take it easy!

Fiber is found in all plant-based foods, but some foods are higher in fiber than others. As a rule of thumb, the juicier and waterier a particular plant-based food is, the less fiber it contains. The denser and harder the plant is, the more fiber it has.

To increase your fiber intake, focus on incorporating the following foods into your diet:

  • beans and other legumes,
  • lentils,
  • nuts,
  • leafy greens (spinach, salads, etc.),
  • whole grain foods (whole grain oat, rye, barley products)