Fiber-rich foods: what they are and why they are good for you
Fibers are essential for our health, because they come into play in many physiological functions of the body: to name just a few, they promote intestinal well-being and help keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels low. Regularly consuming foods rich in fiber is therefore very important to ensure the right amount of these substances every day. Let’s find out what is dietary fiber, what are they forwhich benefits they bring and what they are foods that contain more of them.
What are fibers
Dietary fibers are organic substances belonging to the category of carbohydrates and predominantly vegetable in nature. Our digestive system is not able to break them down and digest them: the fibers, therefore, they are not absorbed from the intestinedon’t bring nutrients and calories but remain intact in our body from when we take them with food to when we expel them with feces, playing a crucial role for intestinal functions and beyond.
Depending on their structure, fibers can be divided into two groups: soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. Let’s see what the difference is.
Soluble Fibers and Insoluble Fibers: What’s the Difference?
The soluble fiberas their name suggests, they dissolve in waterassuming one gelatinous consistency. Due to their viscous nature, they are capable of slow down the intestinal transit of food and gastric emptying, increasing and prolonging the sense of satiety and helping us eat less.
They also contribute to reduce the absorption of sugars and fatswith positive effects on the values of cholesterol and of glycemia (the concentration of glucose in the blood).
Finally, they have aprebiotic actioni.e. I am one source of nourishment for the intestinal bacterial floraor for that universe of microorganisms that populate our intestines and protect it from infections: in this way they also promote our general well-being, given that the intestine plays an important role for the proper functioning of the immune defenses and for correct absorption of some nutrients, such as vitamins.
The insoluble fibersonce in the intestine, they absorb water and, in doing so, they make the stools softer and more voluminous, therefore easier to expel, favoring the intestinal regularity. In addition, thanks to their ability to facilitate evacuation, soluble fibers they prevent waste substances from remaining in the colon for a long time and are absorbed by the body, thus shielding us against infections and other diseases.
What are fibers used for? The health benefits
Thanks to their mechanisms of action, fibers provide us with many benefits. In particular:
- help fight constipation and protect the balance of the intestine
- they are excellent allies for weight loss or maintain weight, because they regulate appetite and reduce the absorption of fats and sugars
- they are very important in diabetic diet because they help to improve blood sugar levels, especially post-prandial blood sugar, as well as being useful in a preventive key, to reduce the risk of diabetes through their glycemic regulation action
- protect heart health thanks to their ability to limit the absorption of cholesterol, a fat which, if present in excess in the blood, can increase cardiovascular risk by accumulating in the arteries, compromising their elasticity and altering their functionality (this condition is called atherosclerosis)
- I’m a potential protective factor against some forms of cancerespecially from those colon e of the breastboth because they prevent faeces and their toxins from staying in the intestine for too long, and because they nourish it and keep it healthy with their prebiotic action.
Regularly bringing foods rich in fiber to the table is, therefore, a good habit to enjoy their positive effects. LARN – Reference intake levels for the Italian population – elaborated by SINU (Italian Society of Human Nutrition) recommend a daily consumption of 25 g of fiber per day for adults. Let’s see which foods contain the most of them.
The foods richest in fiber
As we have mentioned, the fibers are substances of vegetable origintherefore they are found in abundance especially in the fruit and in vegetablesin the legumes it’s us cerealsespecially in those integral.
As underlined by CREA (Research Center for Food and Nutrition), between foods rich in soluble fiber There are:
- Pearl barley (4,41 g per 100 g)
- cooked artichokes (4,38 g per 100 g)
- rye flourand (3.58 g per 100 g)
- oat flakes (3,30 g per 100 g)
- dried cannellini beans (2,3 g per 100 g)
- fresh apples (1,84 g per 100 g)
- fresh pears without peel (1,29 g per 100 g)
- dried chickpeas (1,13 g per 100 g)
- dried lentils (0,92 g per 100 g)
- fresh citrus (0,6 g per 100 g)
The insoluble fiberson the other hand, again according to the nutritional tables of CREA, are present in considerable quantities especially in:
- wheat bran (41,13 g per 100 g)
- dried beans (average 15g per 100g, with some variation from one type to another)
- dry broad beans (13,93 g per 100 g)
- dried lentils (12,91 g per 100 g)
- dried chickpeas (12,45 g per 100 g)
- dried almonds (12,04 g per 100 g)
- Rye flour (10,69 g per 100 g)
- whole wheat flour (6,51 g per 100 g)
- fresh peas (5,8 g per 100 g)
- wholemeal semolina pasta (5,57 g per 100 g).
Contraindications: who should not eat fiber
Fiber is essential to maintain good health, but there are some conditions where it is better to limit its consumption. Should avoid eating meals that are too high in fiber especially those suffering from certain intestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndromeil Crohn’s disease and the diverticulitisto avoid side effects such as abdominal pain and cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea.
to prefer hulled cereals and legumesor deprived, respectively, of the bran and the outer husk, where the fibers are present in greater quantities, is a way not to give up these foods and, at the same time, not to run the risk of suffering from some ailment.
Foods rich in fiber at the table: ideas and recipes
In addition to ensuring the right amount of fiber, it is important to distribute it throughout the day. Here are some ideas for meals that are always high in fiber:
- a breakfastexcellent sources of fiber are cereals, biscuits, pane e wholemeal biscuitsbut also a muesli or one granola based on cereals and dried fruit to be enjoyed with yoghurt
- a lunchbring to the table a first course based on pasta, rice and other whole grainslike ours wholemeal penne with auberginesis a good strategy to increase the share of fiber taken daily
- for the snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon, fruits such as bodies, pere e citrus fruits or one cereal bar and dried fruit they are perfect for a regenerating break and with a good fiber content: a large pear (about 150 g), for example, is enough by itself to cover a fifth of your daily fiber requirement
- a cenai legumes they represent the ideal solution to fill up with fiber, as well as vegetable proteins: try ours spicy bean burger.
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