The real benefits of vegetables: all about dietary fiber

“Eat vegetables!”, “Don’t forget to include vegetables in your diet!”, “Go veggie!”… We hear these inspiring slogans almost 24/7. Every Insta-nutritionist or wellness blogger thinks that these mesmerizing phrases make them look professional in the eyes of their audience. And, no surprise there, they do. But do the reasons to include vegetables in your nutrition plan look obvious enough? Let’s find out what they can offer us in terms of health promotion and weight control!

In this article series, we’ll be discovering the real benefits of vegetables. And this time, we’ll pay much attention to dietary fiber, well-known as a very significant part of a well-balanced diet. 

One of the benefits of vegetables is that they contain dietary fiber. Photo.

Benefits of vegetables: dietary fiber

Oh, that fiber! It’s healthy, it’s so beneficial you can’t even imagine, and it’s an absolute necessity for you… But what does that even mean? For what reasons should you care about dietary fiber so much?

In general, dietary fiber is a broad term for all plant parts your body can’t digest or absorb in full. You can meet the fiber in almost every vegetable, fruit, and whole grains. In comparison with humans, ruminants such as cows have the ability to digest the fiber with the help of their friendly cohabitants – bacteria, living in their stomachs. These bacteria split fiber into simpler elements and set all nutrients free. In other words, they allow a cow to digest and absorb the nutrients, hidden within indigestible parts of plants. We also have special bacteria, which help us deal with the fiber. But they act in a little different way and live in the intestines. In our bodies, dietary fiber can be used in different ways, and it depends on a fiber type.

Vegetables are a source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Photo.

Soluble and insoluble fiber

Actually, there are two types of dietary fiber. Some fiber can dissolve in water and form a gel-like substance. Because of this relationship with water, it’s called soluble fiber. This fiber type gives 2 kcal per 1 g on average.  Meanwhile, another fiber type remains stable and passes through the body without being digested and absorbed. Hence, this fiber type is almost calorie-free. Because of these features, this type is called insoluble fiber.

Both fiber types are highly useful for the body’s proper functioning, and this fact can be perceived as a great quality of vegetables. Why? Because they’re a great source of fiber. The interesting part is that soluble and insoluble fiber act in different ways and play different roles in the digestion process. Let’s begin with soluble fiber.

Carrot contains a lot of soluble dietary fiber. Photo.

What are the main benefits of soluble fiber?

Soluble fiber supplies your friendly gut bacteria with nutrients, allowing them to develop a healthy “community”

And if this microbiota is healthy, it actively supports the immunity and health of the gastrointestinal tract.

Soluble fiber may help prevent colon cancer

During digestion by the gut bacteria (also called fermentation), soluble fiber forms short-chain fatty acids. Those acids help cells protect the gut from micro-injuries and following danger of tumor development.

Soluble fiber has the ability to slightly reduce cholesterol

and can be used like dietary support in cardiovascular diseases treatment.

It may help keep hunger at bay by keeping blood glucose under control

Soluble fiber is able to slow down the digestion process of other nutrients and, thus, control insulin release. In this case, insulin is released slowly and doesn’t provoke dramatic changes in blood sugar amount, allowing you to be active and without becoming hungry for a longer period of time.

Soluble fiber may prevent overeating

…by increasing specific gut peptide concentrations, which play a significant role in forming the feeling of satiety after a meal.

Broccoli contains a lot of soluble dietary fiber. Photo.

The list of soluble fiber benefits looks promising, almost miraculous! It helps prevent overeating (hence, excessive fat gain), reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease, and may safeguard from colon cancer. These are the benefits of vegetables we’re looking for!

Of course, soluble fiber is not a panacea. It just can help maintain your bodily functions properly. But it is still a great tool to promote a healthy body condition. And that’s a lot.

What vegetables are a good source of soluble fiber?

For example, take a look at sweet potato, broccoli, kidney beans, and carrots. Cooked properly, they’re able to satisfy your taste and make your microbiota happy. And if your gut bacteria are happy, the world is yours!

We’ve already found out a lot about soluble fiber and its beneficial effects. Now, let’s take a look at another member of the fiber family – insoluble fiber.

Legumes and beans contain a lot of insoluble dietary fiber. Photo.

What are the main benefits of insoluble fiber?

It stimulates bowel movements and helps prevent constipation

Soluble fiber parts are indigestible and have the ability to absorb liquids, increasing in size, and adding bulk to stool. More bulky stool “forces” the bowel to move more actively and get rid of the body’s natural waste products faster. And this, in turn, lowers the chance to get inflammation, skin or hormonal problems.

Insoluble fiber may help prevent hemorrhoids and decrease the risk of colorectal cancer

Stimulation of the bowel movements leads to faster stool evacuation. This means that you won’t be suffering from the problems, connected with constipation. In other words, the risk of mechanical injuries becomes lower, and the chance to get a chronic disease decreases accordingly.

Insoluble fiber is highly beneficial for supporting proper colon work and overall health by stimulating faster waste evacuation

Cleaner skin, reduced risk of inflammation, cancer prevention…These facts definitely allow us to add insoluble fiber to the list of benefits of vegetables. 

Where could we find insoluble fiber?

For example, in cauliflower, green peas, dark leafy greens such as spinach, lentils, and potatoes.

Vegatables contain a lot of dietary fiber. Photo.

Dietary fiber: in total

As we’ve found out, dietary fiber plays an incredibly significant role in the support of proper body functioning. And, what’s more pleasant, you can find this source of health in almost every vegetable, sold in your local supermarket. Is dietary fiber worth to be included in the list of benefits of vegetables? Absolutely yes! 

But, as Paracelsus said, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison”. And, in case of fiber, it is also relevant. Despite the fact that fiber is highly beneficial for health, overconsumption of it can lead to gas, bloating, and cramping. This is what often happens when people want to change their nutrition style dramatically and start consuming a lot of vegetables, especially legumes or beans. To avoid such issues, it is recommended to increase the portion of vegetables slowly to give the gut bacteria a chance to adjust to the changes.

To get the most out of dietary fiber, stick to the daily recommendations. Photo.

Dietary fiber daily intake recommendations

To get the most out of dietary fiber, stick to the daily recommendations of fiber consumption.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the daily recommended fiber amount is 30-38 g for adult men and 21-25 g for adult women

Of course, these numbers can be perceived just as a reference, because every organism functions in its own special, unique way. 

For some people, a fiber-saturated plant-based diet is a pure blessing in terms of health promotion and weight control. Meanwhile, for other ones the same diet can be unsuitable and uncomfortable. But, despite this somewhat dramatic difference,  the main fact is that every one of us needs fiber to support our health. 

Implement enough vegetables into your diet to get all the benefits of dietary fiber. Photo.

How to implement more dietary fiber into a nutrition plan

  • Before taking any additional steps, consult your physician;
  • Try to stick to the daily recommended numbers of fiber intake and watch your condition;
  • Find the tastiest vegetables, which will make your meal so joyful that your feelings won’t be affected by taste preferences. After a while, you’ll get some response from your body. If everything goes fine, soon you’ll notice little improvements. Otherwise, your body will tell you that this is not exactly what it wants;
  • Play with portions, colors, and taste. Change methods of cooking, and see what works for you!

Add some adjustments, and voila – you get your fiber, enjoy your food, and feel great. No doubt, this is the benefit of vegetables we’re looking for.

In the next articles, we’ll be speaking about vegetables’ calorie density, vitamins, and minerals. Stay tuned!


References

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