Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dietary Fiber - What is it and What Do I Need it For?

Dietary fiber is an often-overlooked, but vital part of your diet. Not only does it supply needed nutrients, but it helps your digestive tract to function normally. Without your daily dose of fiber, you run the risk of hemorrhoids and constipation.

Dietary fiber is divided into two main classifications: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water. In the digestive tract, soluble fiber is broken down by bacteria, resulting in the production of gas and other metabolic byproducts. Some of the chemical compounds that result from this fermentation process are absorbed by the small intestine and used as nutrients by your body. Nutritionists estimate that soluble fibers supplies you with approximately two calories of energy per gram.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It passes through your digestive tract mostly unaltered by the digestion process. This fiber adds bulk to your diet; it is sometimes called roughage. In the past, a diet high in insoluble fiber was credited with reducing your chances of falling prey to colon cancer. However, in recent times, the cancer-reducing benefit of insoluble fiber is being questioned. New evidence shows that high-fiber diets do not confer any additional protection against colon cancer. That's not to say, however, that a diet which lacks fiber is not unhealthy. The US Food and Drug administration recommends that you eat between 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber every day. Furthermore, the FDA recommends that you get 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories in your diet. Therefore, a man on a 2500 calorie diet should consume at least 35 grams of dietary fiber per day.

Make sure to get enough dietary fiber. Natural, high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are not only tasty, they're good for you too!

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