Fiber/Roughage – the antidote

Do you need an anti-dote for carbohydrates you eat?

Yes, there is something like that exists given to us by nature.

We are avoiding that knowingly or unknowingly in our daily diets.

Yes, you got it right, it is fiber.

 Why every weight loss expert is suggesting you to take phyllium husk (isabgol, dietary fiber) before meals? 

Fiber is a non-digestible part of food, usually a carbohydrate. Common types of fiber are cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins, beta-glucans, fructans and gums.

Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble based on whether it is dissolvable in water. These can also be classified as fermentable and non-fermentable. Normal bacteria residing in large intestine have the ability to ferment certain undigested fiber in to short chain fatty acids, which can be used as an energy source.

Fiber has multiple purported mechanisms of health;

  • High fiber food require more chewing, which may help to increase satiety.
  • Fiber may decrease palatability of food and thus reduce food intake.
  • Fiber bulks up food and decrease its energy density. Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel, further increasing its volume. This effect helps fill the stomach and increases satiety.
  • After meals rich in fiber, blood glucose and insulin levels are rises slowly.
  • Increased stool bulk may lead to increased caloric excretion. One study demonstrated that low fiber diet resulted in 8% higher caloric absorption.

Fiber : The antidote

The key to understanding fibers effect is to realize that it is not as a nutrient, but as an anti-nutrient. Fiber has the ability to reduce absorption and digestion. Fiber subtracts rather than adds. In case of blood sugar, this is good. Soluble fiber reduces carbohydrate absorption, which in turn reduces blood glucose and insulin levels.

Traditional diets

It is no coincidence that virtually all the plant foods, in their natural unrefined state, contain fiber. Mother nature has pre-packaged the “antidote” with the “poison”. Thus, traditional societies may follow diets high in carbohydrates without evidence of obesity or type 2 diabetes.

The one critical difference is that the carbohydrates consumed by the traditional societies are unrefined and unprocessed, resulting in very high fiber intake.

Western diets

Western diets are characterized by one defining feature. It’s not the amount of fat, salt, carbohydrate or protein. It’s the high amount of processing of food, which leads to lesser fiber content.

Fat and fiber, key ingredients, are removed in the refining process. Fiber is taken out to change the texture and the food taste “better” and natural fats, to extend shelf life, since fat tends to go rancid with time.

And so we ingest the “poison” without the “antidote”. I want to pull your attention to the fact that, where whole unprocessed carbohydrates virtually always contain fiber, dietary proteins and fats contain almost none. Our bodies have evolved to digest these foods without the need for fibers: without the “poison” the “antidote” is unnecessary.

What happens after removal of protein and fat?

Removing protein and fat in the diet leads to overconsumption. There are natural satiety hormones that respond to protein and fat. Eating pure carbohydrates does not activate these systems and leads to overconsumption.

Fiber and type 2 diabetes

Both obesity and type 2 diabetes are diseases caused by excessive insulin. Insulin resistance develops over time as a result of persistently raised insulin.

If fiber can protect against high insulin then it can protect us from type 2 diabetes too, right?

 There is a study on women over effect of cereal fiber intake. Women who ate high glycemic index food but also ate high fiber are protected against type 2 diabetes. That suggests that they had high “poison” and “antidote” simultaneously in their diet. 

Processing increases glycemic index by reducing fiber content. This happens with our present food we eat. We have to be more cautious while choosing our food. Easiest is to omit all packed food and more processed flour. Encourage the intake of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables in your family menu. Only this much can take care of your daily healthy dietary intake.

About the author

Anju Rai Tiwary

Hi, I am a physiotherapist specialized in neurology. I have also done various certification courses like autism spectrum disorder and weight management. I am here to clarify your health-related curiosities.

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