Soluble fiber supplements are available in fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables. You generally take them in your diet, but often don’t take the required quantity. Increased intake can give you a disease-free lifestyle.
The structural components of plants have an indigestible complex carbohydrate called fiber. Human beings cannot digest this carbohydrate as they lack the enzymes required for its digestion. Since it is indigestible, and is not absorbed by the body, it does not provide any calories. We take in fiber mainly through vegetables and fruits. The fiber content of the food items is known as dietary fiber. It is also more popularly termed as roughage. It is divided into two types – soluble and insoluble fiber.
Difference between the two types of fiber
Both soluble and insoluble fibers cannot be digested and are excreted from the body. The difference between the two is that, the former forms a gel when it mixes with body fluids, while the latter passes through the digestive tract intact. Both the fibers are necessary to maintain good health.
Soluble fiber stimulates bowel movements and prevents constipation to a great extent. It is also known to regulate blood pressure. It also lessens the chances of the occurrence of heart diseases, as it lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood. It also reduces the risk of many types of cancer. Insoluble fiber, specifically, prevents and treats constipation. It is also known to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Soluble fiber supplements
These supplements are produced by pharmaceutical companies and are based on different ranges of fiber. Psyllium is one such type. It is a soluble plant fiber. Many well-known fiber supplements such as Metamucil and Konsyl are based on psyllium. It is known to relieve constipation and is also a dietary fiber supplement for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Methylcellulose and guar gum are other examples of plant fiber, which form the basis of synthetic fiber supplements. A well-known synthetic fiber is calcium polycarbophil. The drugs called Fibercon and Equalactin are made with it.
Taking psyllium-based supplements for IBS can be harsh on the stomach in the beginning. However, the body usually adjusts after some time. But if you find it intolerable, you should stop its usage and shift to some other supplement. It is always advisable to seek a medical practitioner’s advice before taking fiber supplements.
There are many forms of this fiber, e.g. pectin, mucilage, and gums. These supplements of roughage have a number of health benefits.
- They are very effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They mix with the liquid to form a gel and move the food smoothly through the digestive tract. This fiber maintains the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) system. It prevents IBS pain, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation.
- It lowers the concentration of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known to form plaque in the arteries. This results in blockage of arteries, which in turn lead to a number of heart-related disorders such as heart attacks. When the fiber passes through the GI tract, it adheres to the bile acids present there. The bile is made of cholesterol. Thus, it decreases the level of cholesterol that the body would have absorbed. Soluble food supplements, therefore, are heart saviors.
- These fibers, in large concentration, hinder the absorption of glucose from the small intestine. This makes it highly effective in diabetes management.
Essential dietary fiber foods
All fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, contain this fiber. So do apples, grapes, barley, rye, sesame seeds, carrots, prunes, peaches, and gooseberries as well as nuts, seeds, and legumes. If you go by the fiber content of foods, then flax seeds are highly rich. About 100 grams of flax seeds have approximately 12 grams of fiber. Similarly, in food items such as soya beans, lima beans, and cooked artichoke, the fiber contents are 2.09, 5.87, and 5.46 grams per 100 grams of their weight, respectively.
Adults are advised to take between 25 and 40 grams of fiber daily, depending on age, sex, and other factors. Now that you know how essential fibers are for sound health, you must adopt a proper diet. Include the foods containing the required fiber in your meal. The easiest and the best way is to have salads (fruit or vegetable) along with food. Shift to this diet and feel the difference.