Cuba,Apr 13. -Consuming too much or not enough vegetable fiber can be detrimental to staying healthy.
As we crunch on a vegetable salad or a juicy fruit, a good portion of every bite we take is vegetable fiber. Once ingested, it becomes an element that contributes to our health.
It travels through our digestive system, but cannot be absorbed, and is eliminated. Along the way, however, it releases a whole set of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even substances that have not been completely studied by the sciences, but which are of unquestionable value in maintaining the harmony of our bodies.
Part of that fiber attracts water, becomes gelatinous and slows down digestion. Another part swells up less but increases the volume of our feces, diminishing its consistency and the time it takes to travel through our digestive system.
Vegetable fiber, also known as the cleaning brush for our bodies, well-soaked in water will sweep away the impurities deposited in our intestines and make it easier to defecate, a relief and salvation for those who suffer from chronic constipation.
In many cases, bothersome hemorrhoids will be eliminated, and for older people, with weaker intestinal walls, it can prevent diverticula and decrease the incidence of colon cancer. We chew longer when we chew vegetable fiber, stimulating salivation and when it takes longer to swallow a mouthful of food, we feel satisfied more quickly, which helps to eat less.
The lower jaw is not a catapult just waiting for a bite of food to propel it into the depths of our digestive tract.
Each portion of food should be chewed 25-30 times, because our teeth are not just decorations for our smile.
Thorough chewing is needed before sending on its way what we have put into our mouths as the result of an intelligent selection of what we put on our plates.
Vegetable fiber calms the sometimes uncontrollable impulses of appetite, because once ingested, it significantly increases in volume, giving us a pleasant sensation of being full.
Rich in nutrients, low in calories, efficient in satiating hunger, vegetables deserve to be more than a secondary or accompanying dish to succulent but not very healthy processed foods, such as bread and rice.
Sometimes vegetable fiber is totally left out of our dietary habits when it should hold top priority, along with other healthy foods.
Vegetable fiber helps to eliminate undesirable elements, such as sugars and fats, improving the condition of diabetic and hyperlipidemic patients, and helping to control or prevent obesity and overweight.
Vegetable fiber is especially present in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Daily recommended amounts are no more than 25 to 30 grams, which is not a large amount, but which many people do not consume, unfortunately.
Vegetable fiber consumption can cause some intestinal gas, but that cedes with continuous ingestion of these foods as we gradually add them to our everyday diet.
Let's make a change for the good and consume foods rich in vegetable fiber – our bodies will thank us with better health.
* Professor of Medicine and Chief of Endocrinology Services, Dr. Salvador Allende Teaching Hospital, Havana, Cuba.