Fiber definition is easy. It’s indigestible carbohydrates that come from plants. Soluble and insoluble fibers have different benefits to the body.
Fiber. You’ve heard that it’s good for you and that many people don’t get enough fiber in their diet. But there’s more than one kind of fiber. And fiber does more than just help move feces along the digestive tract. As you’re about to learn, fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate naturally found in plants. A carbohydrate is a sugar. But unlike table sugar, fiber is made up of many little units of sugar, linked together into chains, and knots that cannot be unraveled or digested by our body.
Fiber Definition: Indigestible Carbohydrate
If it cannot be digested, then it can’t be used for energy. You can imagine how, if you had one piece of string with one knots in it, the string could easily be unraveled or “digested” by our body and then used for another purpose. That’s table sugar for you.
But, if that same piece of string had hundreds of knots, and was tied in a very difficult way just like fiber is, it may be impossible to untie everything. That’s what fiber is when compared to a simple sugar.
Fiber Definition: Dietary and Functional
Furthermore, there are two divisions of fiber. There’s dietary fiber, which is fiber that is found naturally in grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. And then there’s functional fiber, which is fiber that is made in a lab or extracted and isolated from natural sources, and added to a dietary supplement or food thereafter.
The sum of dietary and functional fiber is known as total fiber. That’s and easy fiber definition. Basically, if you get your fiber from oatmeal, that’s dietary fiber. If you get it from a dietary shake that has added fiber, then that’s functional fiber. To help remember the differences between the two, just look at the names themselves. Dietary literally implies it comes from your diet, a natural diet. If it’s functional, then remember it serves to add the function of fiber to food that doesn’t naturally have enough fiber within it.
Now, I did say in the beginning there are different kinds of fiber. It’s not just about dietary versus functional fiber. There are other divisions involved and things each kind of fiber can do.
Fiber Definition: Soluble and Insoluble
There is something called soluble fiber. This is a type of fiber that reduces the absorption of cholesterol, decreases the movement of glucose into the blood after a meal, and delays stomach emptying.
Soluble fiber turns into a gel when mixed with water in your gastrointestinal tract. Because soluble fiber delays stomach emptying, it makes you feel fuller, and thus makes you less prone to overeating. This obviously helps to control a person’s weight. Additionally because soluble fiber delays the amount of time glucose or sugar moves into your bloodstream, it helps to prevent massive sugar spikes in your body that lead to energy crashes thereafter. Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and lentils.
On the flip side is something called insoluble fiber. This is a type of fiber that helps to add bulk to a stool, pass stool more quickly, and thereby prevent things such as hemorrhoids, constipation, and more. Insoluble fiber can be found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
Why Fiber is Important
You might be wondering why we should even care about the laxative effects of insoluble fiber has upon our body. I’ll give you one good reason. Over many years, if you do not get enough fiber in your diet, and constantly strain to go number two, it can lead to a condition called diverticulitis. This is a painful condition where little pouches form in your colon. Doctors believe that a low fiber diet contributes to this problem.
But there’s more to fiber than just preventing diverticulitis. Fiber has been shown to help prevent or delay the onset of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. You think that such amazing benefits from fiber would be reason enough for Americans to eat enough of it. But it seems that most Americans actually do not get enough fiber in their diet. The typical person only consumes about 11 to 15 grams of fiber per day. You need much more than that. An adult should consume somewhere between 21 to 38 grams of fiber each day.
This lesson should have taught you not only how much fiber you need to consume on a daily basis, but why. And the different kinds of fiber you can eat. Fiber is a non digestible carbohydrate, naturally found in plants. This means it can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
If the fiber you eat comes from say fresh vegetables you get at the store, then it’s considered to be dietary fiber which is fiber that is naturally found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
If you add a powdered form of fiber into your milkshake every day, then that’s functional fiber, which is fiber that is made in a lab or extracted and isolated from natural sources and added to a dietary supplement or food.
Thereafter, the sum of dietary and function fiber is known as total fiber.
Fiber plays many roles in the body. Depending on which of the two kinds it is. There is something called soluble fiber; this is a type of fiber that reduces the absorption of cholesterol, decreases the movement of glucose into the blood after a meal, and delays stomach emptying. There’s also insoluble fiber; this is a type of fiber that helps to add bulk to a stool, pass stool more quickly, and thereby prevent things such as hemorrhoids, constipation, and more. Insoluble fiber can be found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.