Dietary fiber is a very important part of nutrition for all animals, and many of us do not get nearly enough of it. Without adequate dietary fiber, many people experience digestive problems, and are more subject to heart disease, diabetes, hemorrhoids, and high cholesterol. Many individuals who suffer from constipation find their symptoms relieved by eating more fiber, as it makes stools larger and softer. Many foods are high in dietary fiber, and by ensuring that you eat a mixed and varied diet, you can get the recommended ounce (28 grams) of dietary fiber in your diet every day.
There are two categories of dietary fiber: insoluble, and soluble. Insoluble dietary fiber consists of the parts of plants which cannot be digested at all, moving whole through the digestive system and helping to bulk up stool. Insoluble fiber also helps to scrape the intestines clean as it moves through the body, keeping them healthy and free of build up. Soluble dietary fiber turns into a gel like substance as it is digested, and helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Many diabetics try to keep their intake of insoluble fiber high, as it helps to control blood glucose levels.
Only plant sources can be used for dietary fiber, and some plants are better sources than others. In order to get the most benefit, it is important to eat plants and fruits whole, as the skin often contains the most fiber, along with other vital nutrients. Try to eat whole grains and fruits when possible, rather than heavily processed grains and peeled fruits. Whole grains do not have to taste dull and boring; try eating them with a variety of seasonings, or incorporating them into dishes like soups and salads. While health food is traditionally associated with bland flavors, it does not have to be, and many dishes can be made in a high fiber but still delicious form.
Grains like wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat, millet, rice, and sorghum all have high levels of fiber, especially when eaten whole. Legumes such as beans, lentils, split peas, and others are also great sources of fiber, and can be eaten in a wide variety of ways. Whole fruits with edible skins along with dried fruits contain lots of fiber, and so do green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, and chard, along with squashes like pumpkin, acorn, and spaghetti. Finally, many nuts also have useful dietary fiber, and can be eaten on the go during a busy day.