May 3rd, 2021
HOW DIETARY FIBER CAN SUPPORT DIGESTION
Find out how dietary fiber, like inulin, supports digestion and discover which foods you should be eating daily.
WHAT IS FIBER?
Dietary fibers—primarily plant-based carbohydrates—are indigestible food components that are found in many cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Because they can’t be broken down by human cells, they remain in the gastrointestinal tract where they serve as food for beneficial intestinal bacteria.
The daily requirement of dietary fiber for adults is about 30 - 40 grams, yet about 70% of adults consume less than that.
Dietary fibers can be divided into two categories: (water) soluble and (water) insoluble fiber.
SOLUBLE DIETARY FIBER
Pectin, inulin, oligofructose and other prebiotics are all considered soluble dietary fibers and are found in fruit and vegetables. Because soluble fibers can bind to an enormous amount of water, they act as a swelling agent in the stomach. Chia seeds are a great example. They mostly contain soluble fiber, which is why they nearly double in size when soaked in water, transforming into a jelly-like mass.
Soluble dietary fibers help promote a feeling of fullness, thereby decreasing appetite, because they increase the volume of the stomach’s contents. And, because the good intestinal bacteria likes to eat them, they’re essential for healthy and balanced intestinal flora.
INSOLUBLE DIETARY FIBER
The main insoluble dietary fibers are cellulose and lignin, which are found primarily in whole-grain products, mushrooms, and legumes. Unlike soluble fibers, they aren’t broken down by intestinal bacteria, so they remain whole, and in this way, increase the volume of the stomach’s contents. And, because they don’t bind to water, they remain firm and can exert considerable pressure on the inner walls of the stomach. While this may sound unpleasant, it’s very beneficial for digestion because the presence of enough insoluble dietary fiber stimulates intestinal movement.
FIBER FOCUS: INULIN
Inulin is a water-soluble dietary fiber that serves as food for the "good" intestinal bacteria. As with all other dietary fibers, the same applies to inulin: the human body does not produce a digestive enzyme to process inulin. Therefore, it passes through the stomach virtually undigested and can only be converted into fructose (which is used by the body for energy) by intestinal bacteria in the large intestine. This process takes place through fermentation, which is why inulin is also characterized as a fermentable dietary fiber.
Healthy intestinal bacteria, e.g. bifidus bacteria, prefer fructose molecules as an energy source so making sure that they get enough of their preferred fuel allows them to spread and thus displace pathogenic germs in the intestine. The result? A healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestinal flora.
Many vegetables and fruits naturally contain inulin, especially parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, onions, and garlic.
BEST FIBER-RICH FOODS
The best way to increase your fiber intake is to eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
These foods, in particular, pack a lot of fiber:
- Carrots, peppers, beetroot, cabbage and fennel: between 2 and 5g per 100g
- Legumes: over 7g per 100g
- Jerusalem artichoke and artichoke: between 10 and 18g per 100g
- Berry fruits: 3 to 5g per 100g
Caution: If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, abruptly switching to a high-fiber diet can cause excess gas or uncomfortable feelings of fullness. However, gradually introducing more fiber to your diet (for example, with 1 cup of lentils or oatmeal per day), will allow your intestines and digestive system to become accustomed to it. Also, be sure to drink more water with fiber-rich meals. This will help the water-soluble fiber move more easily through your digestive system.
THE EASIEST WAY TO INCREASE YOUR FIBER INTAKE: GUT FEELING
Gut Feeling Mix contains 6 plant-based ingredients that are beneficial to the digestive tract. A single serving contains 4g of dietary fiber, which is 20% of the daily recommended amount!
Written by Kristel