What Are Fibrous Foods?

Nutritionists recommend that children and adults consume at least 20gm of dietary fiber per day from food.
Nutritionists recommend that children and adults consume at least 20gm of dietary fiber per day from food. (Image: Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

According to Harvard School of Public Health, the average American only eats about 15gm of fiber a day whereas she should be eating at least 20gm. Doctors and nutritionists often tell patients to include more dietary fiber in their diet, but what is dietary fiber and why is it so important? According to Mayo Clinic, dietary fiber is commonly known for relieving constipation but can help keep you healthy in the long term by fighting heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer as well.

Why Fiber is Important

Dietary fiber is a daily necessity which should be taken from food, not supplements, according to Harvard School of Public Health. Fibrous foods are sources of dietary roughage, also known as bulk. These plant derived substances contain cellulose, which can't be broken down into smaller components by humans. After fiber passes through the intestines, it becomes the bulk of feces. It helps clear the colon along the way, helping prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and irregular bowel movements.

Long Term Health Benefits

Fibrous foods help combat Type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by high blood sugar levels. Two Harvard studies -- of nurses and of male health professionals -- found that a diet low in fiber and rich in sugar more than doubled the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to a diet high in cereal fiber and low in sugar. It was also found that male health professionals with a diet rich in fiber are 40 percent less prone to diverticular disease, an inflammation of the intestine which is common in people over 45.

Types of Fibrous Foods

Fibrous foods are any kinds of foods which contain plant cellulose, which can't be digested by the human body. These include grains and whole-grain products, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, legumes, seeds and nuts. Processed fibrous foods such as canned fruit, sugary cereals and refined grains also don't contain as much fiber as unprocessed fibrous foods. For example, four slices of white bread contain 3g of fiber whereas four slices of whole-grain bread contain 5.7g of fiber.

How to Add Fiber to Your Diet

Fiber can also be taken in the form of supplements, but store bought supplements don't contain the same vitamins, nutrients, minerals and anti-oxidants as fresh fibrous foods. To increase the amount of daily fiber in your diet, eat breakfast cereals which contain barley, wheat or oats. Instead of eating white breads and pastas, opt for multi-grain breads and brown rice. Add an extra vegetable to every evening meal and have fruit for dessert. For snacks, have dried nuts or wholemeal crackers.

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