Vegetables, fruits and other plant materials contain certain types of food particles that are not digestible or absorbable, but have powerful health-promoting effects. These include fiber and prebiotics; both improve function of the colon, a part of the large intestine, by promoting bulk growth of healthy bacteria. Fiber and prebiotics have a symbiotic relationship that not only promotes healthy colon activity but also is important to overall body function.
Dietary fiber and prebiotics are found in vegetables, fruits, herbs and grains, and are the elements that give structure to the cell walls of these plant foods. Fiber Foods There are various types of fibers with different names, depending on the part of the plant and type of plant from which they are derived. By eating a variety of natural foods, you can obtain the full spectrum of these fibers.
They include pectin, cellulose, beta-glucans, mucilage and a variety of gums including guar, Arabic and locust bean. Pectin is the substance partly responsible for the ripening of fruit. It is especially high in apples, citrus and most berries and is used as a gelling agent in foods such as jam. Applesauce is a high-pectin food that works as a remedy for diarrhea by adding bulk to the intestinal contents.
Cellulose, such as found in wheat bran, is a component of cell walls of most plants. Beta-glucans from oats have become popular because of their positive association with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Mucilage’s, such as psyllium and seaweed, are very functional fibers rich in minerals.
Natural gums, as extracted from certain plants, have been used for thousands of years as thickening agents and emulsifiers, and can also benefit the intestine. It’s not so important to remember all the different names of these natural fibers.
But it is important to remember to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, which will provide you with the full spectrum of fiber important not only for your intestines but for your entire system. When, and if, you eat too much of one particular type of fiber, and consume it apart from those in natural foods, you risk creating an imbalance. It’s analogous to the ABCs of fat balance is the key.
Try to get all the fiber you need by eating a variety of healthy food, especially vegetables and fruits. At least one, preferably two or even three, semi-solid bowel movements per day is a general indication that you’re eating enough fiber.