What is a dietary fiber?

What is a dietary fiber is an important question for us all to grasp; on the so-called "industrial diet" most people are getting less than half of what is absolutely necessary for wellness. It's recommended we eat about 30 grams per day; beware of the synthetics that food companies are adding.

Those who grow much of their own food have little to fear; nor those who get it from the green-grocer or farmers' markets. But most folk are enjoying the convenience of the industrial diet with serious consequences; misery lies ahead. Here lie the chronic degenerative diseases in wait; over 30% of the population have one or more.

Whole grains, green legumes and fresh vegetables are increasingly difficult to get. Our taste buds have been coached to look for highly-refined and processed foods.

spinach dark green leafy
corn on the cob
Blue berries and passion fruit
Fava and lima beans in pot
Avocado-Fuerte-Hass.jpg
Magnesium from nuts and seeds

What does dietary fiber do?

Fiber found naturally in food has an important part to play in preventing constipation, lowering cholesterol and providing nutrients for the friendly bugs found in the gut.

It also has a role in providing satiety, that sense of fullness and controlling blood-glucose; with diabetes being rampant in the world getting sufficient dietary fiber is one of the keys to wellness.

"Patients with COVID-19 have a high prevalence of diabetes."

- JAMA, Dec 6, 2022.

Getting sufficient fiber is not small beer; it may mean surviving a serious viral infection.

Why is dietary fiber important?

The friendly bugs in the gut that influence hugely important issues like generalised inflammation, the formation of the tau-proteins that cause Alzheimer's Disease and nutrients for the bowel lining must have plenty of dietary fiber. In the happy tum the so-called microbiome consists of an astonishing 2kg of friendly bacteria, viruses and yeast cells.

Constipation has a central role to play in many serious bowel diseases. Understanding what is a dietary fiber is not necessary for those eating whole, natural foods. But if you are enjoying typical refined meals then this page is especially for you; assuming you have no desire to be frequenting doctors' rooms and taking many drugs on a regular basis.

What foods have dietary fiber?

Small changes for those who understand what is a dietary fiber can be profoundly important. Could you add a handful of nuts and a fruit such as an apple daily to your food plan? They keep the doctor away; literally.

There is strong research that adding a whole grain such as grits and removing say a cookie made from refined flour is profoundly important for the prevention of heart disease[1]; it's all about the fibre.

2 types of dietary fiber

There are 2 types of dietary fiber, for example the pectin in fruit and the bran from whole grains. They are not digested in the normal way by enzymes in the small intestine, passing through instead to the colon where they provide nutrients for the so-called microbiome; the friendly bugs in the bowels.

Soluble dietary fiber

Soluble dietary fiber like pectin and the beta-glucans in oats form a thick viscous liquid in the gut; they have a profound influence on the absorption of cholesterol.

The soluble pectin from just five prunes enjoyed daily is more effective than the most common medical treatment for preventing constipation; psyllium husks. They are a good deal cheaper and more tasty too.

Insoluble dietary fiber

The insoluble dietary fiber from whole grains is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Corn on the cob would fit the bill perfectly in the summer months, as would steel-cut oats but we have become accustomed to sandwiches and cereals that slide sweetly down the throat with little chewing needed.

Our understanding of what is a dietary fiber has been grossly undermined by a big fat lie; millers are allowed by international law to remove up to 40% of the goodies from wheat for example and still call it wholemeal.

100% wholemeal flour comparison

The label of the flour in the middle describes the product as wholemeal but even the dumbest person can see that most of the bran and much of the germ have been extracted.

The cake flour at the bottom of the container is completely devoid of the good stuff.

wheat whole vs whole

Look for the 100% whole grain sign. You won't find it very often; the best solution is to purchase your own mill and bake bread at home. It takes only five minutes to prepare the dough.

One slice of this 100% whole grain bread contains about 5 grams of fiber; that made from refined wheat has almost none.

sourdough bread loaf

It's surprisingly light especially when using the sourdough method.

Recommended intake of dietary fiber

The recommended intake of dietary fiber is around 30 grams per day. We advise increasing the amount gradually over a matter of weeks so that the bowel can become accustomed to the new status quo.

A wholesome salad and a slice of the bread above would provide about a half of your daily needs.

Bean green lunch plateSalads, avocado and hummus; on 100% wholemeal bread.

Added isolated or synthetic fiber

Food companies are adept at refining out most of the goodies from their products and then using added synthetic fiber to fool us. Look out for terms like oligofructose and xanthan-gum in the list of ingredients; they have no proven value.

Many of them have little influence on lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels; nor do they make bowel movements easier or improve the absorption of minerals as natural fiber does.

The other deception to be aware of is that having extracted the natural fiber and other nutrients from processed foods they become utterly tasteless; so large amounts of sugar and salt are often added. It's important to become a label-reader if you are enjoying typical products on the industrial diet.

Many food companies are in the business of extracting the best parts from our food, selling it instead at great profit to farmers and then adding back various nutrients and calling it enriched; don't be deceived by the sales pitch.

These synthetic fibers are added to thicken foods; and stabilise peanut butter and ice-cream for example.

What is a dietary fiber?

What is a dietary fiber is central to the wellness of the bowels; and the levels of  glucose and cholesterol in the blood.

Be aware that much of the fiber added to processed foods probably does not have the same benefits for your wellbeing as that in unrefined meals.

Where to start?

Stone-ground-cheesy-grits

Where to start is a matter of personal preference; perhaps a bowl of stone ground grits or steel-cut oats with berries. Natural honey if you can find it has a low glycemic index and won't raise your blood glucose[1].

A green salad for lunch with hummus for protein takes a lot of beating.

Spinach, green peas and another coloured vegetable such as butternut would complete your day. A handful of unsalted peanuts or sunflower seeds would be the cherry on top.

Now that you know what is a dietary fiber you are well on your way to a happy tum; less pain, pills and consultations with your doctor.

It's purely anecdotal but by understanding what is a dietary fiber and other issues of course like daily exercise neither the good wife or I, in our mid-seventies take any medication; nor have we needed to consult our doctor in over a year.

We do work hard at it though; almost no refined commercial foods. Whilst it may seem initially impossible to completely forego donuts, cake and delicious scones it is such a relief having little pain and the energy to complete our daily tasks. We both continue to work part-time. Life is good; it's never too late to start.

Are we food snobs or epicures? You be the judge; we absolutely love the taste of our wholesome food and don't mind the extra chewing needed for fiber-rich meals.


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Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, the family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

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  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
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  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
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  • Go to bed slightly hungry
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  • What can go in compost?
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