Fiber is the indigestible part of plants that travels through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements. Fiber is filled with cellulose, lignin, and pectin, substances which are difficult for digestive enzymes to break down. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water as it makes its way through the digestive system turning into a gelatinous mass. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water and changes little as it moves through the digestive system, making it important for moving bulk through the digestive system and keeping you regular. Foods high in insoluble fiber include vegetables – especially dark green leafy ones, root vegetable skins, fruit skins, whole wheat products, wheat bran, corn bran, nuts, and seeds.
Soluble fiber helps you feel full longer and helps regulate sugar absorption, preventing wild sugar swings. Soluble fiber also helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol by the body. Good sources of soluble fiber include chia seeds, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kidney beans, pinto beans, zucchini, apples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, prunes, and whole-grains bread.
Psyllium husk, oat, oat brans, and flax seed are excellent additions to your diet because they are rich in both types of fibers.
Experts recommend women consume 25 grams of fiber a day and, men, eat at least 38 grams. Recommendations for after the age of 50, suggest women drop their intake to 21 grams and men to 30 grams.
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