Roughage is an important component of our diet. We consume roughage, or fiber, from complex starches, fruits and vegetables in our diet. Fiber is an elongated, thread like structure of organic tissue such as a muscle fiber or a nerve fiber. In terms of nutrition and diet therapy, fiber consists of non-digestible materials which include plant fibers such as cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, gums, agar, pectin and mucilage along with animal tissues such as ligaments in meats and undigested pharmaceutical products.
Your DNA is a strong force behind your weight and overall health. However, most of the time, it’s not pulling all the strings. Instead, it simply gives you the tendency. You are still in charge! Recognizing your genetics, whether it is a sweet tooth, or a predisposition to deposit extra body fat around your waist, it isn’t a life sentence. It’s a tool for change. You can easily get your meals planned around the dietary fiber prevalent in food which will help you become leaner.
In addition to filling you up with fewer calories, fiber also blocks absorption of some of the calories by shuffling them through your body swiftly. Experts estimate that each gram of fiber substituted for a gram of simple carbohydrate results in a 7 calorie reduction. Increasing your daily fiber intake from 14 grams to 30 grams can result in a 100 calorie deficit per day which results in 10 pounds of weight loss per year!
In nutrition, plant polysaccharides and lignin that are not digested in the human intestine are called dietary fibers or “unavailable” carbohydrates. These are:
- Insoluble Dietary Fiber
- Soluble Dietary Fiber
Insoluble fiber is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which do not dissolve in water but they absorb water, and thus, contribute bulk to stool and prevent constipation and diverticulosis (small, bulging pouches develop in the digestive tract). Insoluble fibers are only 10-15% digested.
Soluble dietary fiber includes pectin, gums, mucilage and algal substances. Soluble fibers are 90-99% digested in the body and some of them also undergo fermentation by the bacteria in the colon, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Soluble fibers are useful in managing obesity, lowering blood cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and preventing colon cancer.
The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 20-35 grams per day for adults. The important functions of dietary fiber in the body are:
- Fiber holds water and behaves like a sponge when it passes through the gastrointestinal tract.
- Fiber adds bulk to the diet, therefore it helps in satiety when on weight loss diets.
- It increases transit time in the gut and reduces the time of release of ingested food in the colon, thereby helping to prevent colon cancer.
- It stimulates contraction of muscular walls of the digestive canal tract which help to counteract the tendency for constipation.
- It binds to bile salts and prevents re-absorption which helps to reduce cholesterol in circulation.
- It is also reported to reduce post-prandial glucose in the blood.
Good food sources for insoluble fibers are bran, whole wheat, cereal grains, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, peas and beans. Good food sources for soluble fibers are fruits, rolled oats, oat bran, tubers, dried beans, peas and other legumes. These sources can hold 200ml of water in the body:
- 50 grams of bran
- 100 grams of raw carrots
- 150 grams of apples
- 200 grams of oranges
Recent studies have shown that gum found in Fenugreek seeds (it contains 40% gum) is most effective in reducing blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels as compared to other gums.
Whole meal flour, bran, oatmeal and rice are good sources of fiber. They contribute to about 8-15% of total dietary fiber. They are also an important part of a healthy diet. Try to plan your meals and snacks around wholegrain breads, pastas and oats. They are a good source of energy, fiber, calcium, iron and B-vitamins. Try to get at least half of your starchy carbohydrates as whole grains. Stick to a plain baked potato versus potato chips. If you’re really concerned about weight gain, then also be careful of your overall portion sizes.
Many population studies have shown that people who eat a significant amount of legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, split peas and beans) tend to weigh less. They also have slimmer waistlines, less obesity and lower blood pressure compared to people who don’t eat many legumes. The legumes may also benefit individuals in improving their cholesterol and insulin regulation. This is good news for overweight individuals since instead of eating smaller portions and reducing the quantity of food they are eating, they can also improve the quality of their meal by eating a diet rich in legumes.
Fruits and Vegetables
On average, fruits and vegetables contain about 80-90% water. Including them in your diet can bulk up the volume of foods without adding calories since stretch receptors in the stomach send signals to the brain after a certain volume of food has been ingested regardless of calorie intake. This means that by simply adding fiber and water to your diet, you can eat more food while not gaining weight.
Fruits and vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals. There is mounting evidence which shows that people who eat lots of fruit and vegetables are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and some cancers. Do not forget that fruits and veggies are also low in fat so they are great foods for weight loss. Did you know that you should be eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily? You can choose from fresh, frozen, canned and dried sources. If you count your portions each day, it might help you to increase the amount you eat.
A plate full of tomatoes, broccoli or strawberries have the same amount of calories as compared to only one-fourth or one-half plate full of cheese, chicken and fish. So, this shows you that the same amount of calories from plant-based foods would be more likely to fill you up when compared with the same amount of animal food or processed food which may leave you less full.
Nuts are also a good source of fiber and they make up about 9-10% of dietary fiber. You can include almonds, raisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and chia seeds in your diet for some extra fiber. Almonds have a reasonably good amount of fiber and helps in reducing weight. You can consult with your personal dietitian for the exact amount required for your specific body type.
Overdosing on fiber can cause diarrhea in people who are not accustomed to fiber intake, so it should be slowly incorporated into your diet. Too much fiber may also interfere with the absorption of calcium and zinc. Extra fiber, if incorporated all at once, may cause excess gas build-up in the colon which may lead to volvulus (twisting of the sigmoid colon). Additional fiber such as wheat or rice bran rich in phytic acid can bind trace minerals and decrease their availability. Also, wheat bran contains a trypsin inhibitor which may interfere in the hydrolysis of proteins by trypsin.
Sometimes, individuals who eat a low fiber diet can be at risk for various colonic, metabolic or endocrine disorders. These may include constipation, ulcerative colitis, obesity, diabetes, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, thyrotoxicosis, dental cavities and hiatal hernias.
Dietary Fiber in Certain Fruits, Raw Vegetables and Cereals
|SOURCE||TOTAL DIETARY FIBER (g/100gm)|
|Baked beans (½ cup cooked)||8.8|
|Avocado (one half)||6.5|
|Chia seeds (1 ounce)||11|
|Coconut flour (2 Tbsp)||8|
|Ground Flaxseed (2 Tbsp)||4|
|Almonds (1 ounce)||3|
|Barley (1/4 cup)||8|
|Oatmeal (¾ cup)||1.6|
Tips for Making a Healthy Change
Apart from weight loss, giving up the typical “fast food” diet and following either a low-fat vegetarian regimen or a Mediterranean diet that is rich in healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables has been shown to reverse heart disease risks along with many other benefits.
The genetic and environmental baggage that you may have been saddled with as a kid does not determine who you are now. You can learn to recognize your old childhood eating habits that are ingrained in your mind about food and exercise. Only you can determine how hard you have to work to achieve success and maintain a healthy body and mind. This is why your lifestyle and your diet need to be specifically tailored to fit you.
Try your best to overcome negative food and exercise habits that you learned as a child by recalling healthy experiences and reliving them. Think about all the activities and sports which you loved to play as a kid and get out there and do them again! Remember any of the healthy foods you enjoyed when growing up like farm fresh cucumbers, watermelon and baked sweet potatoes, and bring them back to your menu.
Know you know how important it is to get roughage in your diet for the overall mechanism of digestion, bowel movements, the elimination of wastes and for obtaining other desirable attributes. The requirements for daily intake can be easily met by including five or more servings of vegetables and fruits and including six or more servings of whole wheat sources and legumes in your diet. Try your best to start eating more fiber and take advantage of its benefits to help your body cleanse itself!