Is fiber a complex carbohydrate

Posted by Wen Dan Jiang on

Is fiber a complex carbohydrate?

Is fiber a complex carbohydrate? Fiber is basically a general term used for a particular type of carbohydrates that our body is unable to digest. It is due to the reason that our body does not possess enzymes needed to digest those carbohydrates. Fibers are present in eatables such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, peas, and nuts, etc.

Fibers are very important for our gut. They play a vital role in the maintenance of proper bowel movements. It is due to this role that they are helpful in the prevention of constipation and other such gut problems.

In this article, you’ll also find why fibers are good for our health and how they are involved in the prevention of many gut problems?

What is fiber?

A fiber, as stated previously, is a complex carbohydrate. The fact that dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate is because of the presence of a variety of complex organic substances such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, etc.(1)Due to presence of such complex ingredients, fibers are indigestible by human enzymes. Moreover, the components of fibers fall under the category of polysaccharides.

Types of Fiber

Books and medical literature classify fibers into two types:

  • Dietary Fiber-it is the fiber that is found naturally in foods.
  • Functional Fiber-it is the fiber that is withdrawn from whole food and then included in canned foods.(2)

Dietary fibers are further classified into two:

  • Soluble dietary fiber- which is soluble in water
  • Insoluble dietary fiber- which is not soluble in water.(3)

Health-Benefits of Fibers

There are so many health-benefits of fibers that one can’t even enlist all of them here. Some of those are as follows:

  • Cardiovascular Health: high dietary fibers consumption is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension etc.
  • Obesity Prevention: studies have shown that fiber intake prevents obesity and helps people in their weight management.
  • Gut Motility: fibers cause the release of such gastrointestinal hormones that function to increase gastrointestinal tract motility. This enhanced motility prevents constipation.
  • Maintenance of Cholesterol Levels: dietary fibers help lower the bad cholesterol and also increase good cholesterol in our body. This then plays a vital role in the prevention of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Control of Blood Sugar Levels: In persons with diabetes, fibers-particularly soluble fibers-slow down the absorption of sugar and thus help lower blood sugar levels. A high-fiber diet may also reduce the potential risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Longer Life: Studies suggest that the variety of benefits provided by the fibers decrease the potential risks of cancers and cardiovascular diseases enabling the person to live a longer life.(4)

Which natural foods are high in dietary fiber?

Although there are many foods that are enriched in fibers, yet some important and nutritious food having fiber are mentioned below:

  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Avocado
  • Apples
  • Oranges 
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Artichoke

Fortified Foods and Fiber Supplements

To mention the difference between whole food and fortified food, whole foods are way better than the latter as they not only are rich in fiber but also are equally nutritive. Many canned products present in the market have been processed to contain fiber as an ingredient. Similarly, fiber supplements have also been made by pharmaceutical companies for patients having major gastrointestinal problems. These fiber supplements include Fibercon, Metamucil, and Citrucel, etc. which are prescribed to patients having constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome.

How much fiber you need daily?

According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily dietary fiber intake is as follows:(5)

AGE ≤ 50 years

AGE ≥ 51 years

MEN

38 grams

30 grams

WOMEN

25 grams

21 grams

Are there any side-effects of fibers?

Fibers do not have serious side-effects. They are low in calories having complex carbohydrates in them and thus help in weight loss. Also, there is little evidence that high fiber intake impedes mineral absorption and bioavailability.

Can excessive fiber intake affect your health?

It is always quoted that excess of everything is bad. This also holds true for fiber intake and consumption. Too much fiber intake can affect your health and can cause serious gut problems. Some of those problems are highlighted under:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loose stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Lowered blood sugar levels(6)

Thus, it is important to call your doctor right away if you experience any one of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Take Away Message

If you want yourself to be healthy and improve your gut functionality, fibers should be your choice. Dietary fiber is a crucial component of a healthful diet, with research linking a high fiber diet with diminished risks of many health conditions and ailments. Dietary fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full quickly, playing a role in controlling your weight. Thus, you should surely include fibers in your daily meals.


References:

1.         Stark A, Madar Z. Dietary Fiber BT  - Functional Foods: Designer Foods, Pharmafoods, Nutraceuticals. In: Goldberg I, editor. Boston, MA: Springer US; 1994. p. 183–201. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-2073-3_9

2.         Turner ND, Lupton JR. Dietary Fiber. Adv Nutr [Internet]. 2011 Mar 3;2(2):151–2. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3945/an.110.000281

3.         Mudgil D. Chapter 3 - The Interaction Between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber. In: Samaan RABT-DF for the P of CD, editor. Academic Press; 2017. p. 35–59. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128051306000033

4.         Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis  Jr RH, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev [Internet]. 2009 Apr 1;67(4):188–205. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x

5.         Front Matter | Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements | The National Academies Press [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 24]. Available from: https://www.nap.edu/read/11537/chapter/1

6.         Increasing Fiber Intake | Patient Education | UCSF Health [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 24]. Available from: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake

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