Although fiber is not a nutrient in the
usual sense, we need fiber in our diet to maintain a good health.
Fiber can only be found in foods of plant origin and it cannot be
broken down by the human digestive tract. Its main function is to help
maintain a healthy digestive tract. Fiber collects waste and large
amounts of water as it passes through the digestive tract and thus
makes elimination quicker and easier. About 30 to 35 g of fiber are
There are two types of fiber:
Water soluble fiber which is found in
fruits, vegetables, oats, oat bran, barley, dried beans and peas helps
in blood cholesterol and blood sugar regulation.
Water insoluble fiber which is found in
skins of fruits and vegetables, whole wheat products and seeds
increases the rate at which food passes through the digestive tract.
Soluble fibers (pectin, guns, mucilage)
found in fruits and some grains dissolve in water to form a gel. This
gel slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach and the rate at
which it moves through the intestines. Soluble fibers also help
control blood cholesterol and sugar levels, the latter useful for
people with diabetes.
Insoluble fiber (cellulose,
hemicelluloses, lignin) which is found in all plants and cereal foods
do not dissolve in water. They tend to absorb water and increase bulk,
hence speed up the rate at which food passes through the digestive
tract. They make the contents of the bowel bulkier and softer and
therefore easier to pass. This helps to prevent constipation and other
diseases of the colon.
Eat at least four servings of whole
grain breads and cereals, four servings of vegetables and four
servings of fruits everyday to make sure we get the benefits of all
the different types of fiber.