All athletes know that a good balanced diet is the key to optimize its performance. We already told you about 3 important nutritional groups: fat, carbohydrate, and protein. However, among one of these groups, we mentioned an essential notion without going into details: Dietary fibers. These are essentials in our diet. You have surely already seen products containing the notion “rich in fiber”, “source of fiber” … But what is a real fiber? What roles do they play in our organism ? In order to realize the importance of consuming enough fiber for your health Coup d’barre will give you a better understanding.
What are fibers?
Originally, dietary fibers are carbohydrate polymers (complex carbohydrates) naturally present in the walls of plants. Today, this term also refers to carbohydrate polymers that have been processed or synthesized. They cannot be digested or absorbed in the small intestine. They therefore arrive in the colon where they will be degraded by the intestinal microbiota via the fermentation process.
Note : Our body contains many microorganism in interaction with different parts of it. These microorganisms are indispensable to our health. The intestinal microbiota corresponds to all microorganisms (bacteria, non-pathogenic viruses, fungus ...) hosted in our digestive tract. The human intestinal microbiota has about 100,000 billion of them. The colon is the part of the densest and most diverse digestive tube in microorganism. They are essential and play important roles in several functions of our body. They promote digestion, help the immune system, fight against certain diseases ...
There are 2 kinds of dietary fibers classified according to their degrees of solubility in the water.
- Soluble fibers :
These have a strong power of solubility. They are easily dispersed in the water which increases the viscosity of the medium.
They can be used as gelling or thickening in processed foods.
They have a significant accessibility to bacteria that will degrade them via fermentation. Thus, their colonic digestibility is high, they are well tolerated by the digestive tract. We are talking about fermental glucid.
- Insoluble fibers :
Unlike soluble fibers, insoluble fibers are difficult to disperse in water, they have low solubility power. However, they have a significant water retention capacity.
Their access to bacteria are low. Thus, their colonic digestibility is low or zero, they are not well tolerated by the digestive tract. We are talking about little carperged glucid.
Sources of fiber:
Here is a table of the main sources of fiber
Most plant products contain these 2 types of fiber. However, the amount of each type of fiber vary from one food to another. If you eat in a variety of way, you are supplying with both.
For example, fruits and vegetables contain a significant amount of soluble and insoluble fibers. However, some will have an insoluble fiber content larger than other such as leeks, cabbage, peppers, radish, turnip ... but also the skin of fruits and vegetables. The eggplant, artichoke, lawyer, carrot, zucchini, orange, strawberry, banana ... meanwhile possess more soluble fiber.
Some cereals have a predominance of soluble fibers such as oats, rye or barley. While complete cereals like complete wheat, spelled ... are richer in insoluble fiber.
Legumes often have a predominance of insoluble fibers, as well as oilseeds and seeds.
Benefits of fibers:
Fiber plays an important role in the digestion process and indirectly they have an impact on certain diseases.
- To regulate intestinal transit
Fiber, especially insoluble fibers, has a preventive and creative effect on constipation. As we have seen previously, insoluble fibers are not digested and have a great capacity for water retention. Thus, they will increase the weigh and volume of the fecal mass and therefore accelerate the evacuation of stool.
This increased transit increases the elimination of waste produced by the body as well as toxic substances.
The fibers therefore have an action of cleaning the digestive system.
Note: It is important to stay well hydrated throughout the day so that the fiber action is optimal and thus avoid being constipated.
- To slow the absorption of nutrients
As mentioned above, the soluble fibers are dissolved in the water and create a viscous gel that comes to deposit on the walls of the digestive tract. They create a barrier that slows down the absorption of nutrients. This function is interesting for diabetics because it allows to regulate the blood sugar level. Slowing down the glucose absorption speed makes it possible to spread the peak of blood glucose and insulin.
In addition, all fibers, soluble as insoluble, have a low glycemic index, which is recommended for diabetics.
- To increase satiety
Soluble fibers by decreasing the rate of digestion, nutrient absorption and insoluble fibers by increasing the congestion with their water retention power make it possible to be satiated faster and longer. Thus, they reduce the risk of excessive food and crafts.
- To prevent cardiovascular disease
Soluble fibers such as insoluble, act to prevent cardiovascular disease. The insoluble fibers absorb the bile salts and reduce their recycling towards the liver, which stimulates the hepatic synthesis and thus the use of cholesterol leading to a drop in cholesterolemia. During the degradation of the bacteria soluble fibers, short-chain fatty acids are produced having a role in lowering total cholesterolemia. These fatty acids increase the right cholesterol: HDL and decreases the bad cholesterol: LDL.
Note: HDL cholesterol allows to capture cholesterol molecules that are deposited in the arteries to transport them to the liver, which will be removed. LDL cholesterol is responsible for cholesterol deposits at the arteries.
- To strengthen the immune system
The health of our intestines and in particular our intestinal microbiota is strongly linked to that of the immune system. This microbiote prevents bad bacteria from entering blood circulation and proliferate. The more good bacteria in the intestines, the more the barrier between the body and the pathogenic bacteria is important. Soluble fibers act like prebiotics by nourishing good bacteria which allows them to grow and proliferate.
- To prevent certain diseases like colon cancer
As seen previously, the fibers make it possible to increase the transit and thus to reduce the contact time with certain carcinogenic substances (waste from the body or toxic substances ingested as certain cooking products). Short chain fatty acids such as butyrate produced during fiber degradation allow protecting the colonic mucosa.
Daily recommendation :
Today, it's recommended to consume 25 to 30g of fibers per day, including 10 to 15g of soluble fibers, and various origins. Many people have difficulty to reach this quantity. To achieve this, it's advisable to increase progressively our amount of fibers per day in order to avoid some disturbances such as stomach cramps or flatulence.
Some tips to increase its consumption of fiber :
- Replace refined grain products with complete, such as complete rice, full wheat.
- Eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day keeping the skin when it is possible.
- Eat more regularly legumes like lentils, chickpeas, red beans ...
- For your little hollows, opt for a handle of oilseeds (almonds, hazelnut, walnut ...)
- Replace the sweet cereals of the breakfast with oat flakes.
- Promotes a short baking of vegetables.
Be careful of not abusing it. Excessive consumption could generate the opposite effect to that sought.
Fibers and endurance sports:
Fibers are essential for the entire population to stay healthy. However, a fiber-rich diet before an intense long-term effort can cause some problems: slow digestion, bloating, more regular toilet stop .... It is advisable to reduce the ingestion of fibers two days before this type of effort.
You now know about food fibers and their importance in the diet. Now stands for a new article for next week on ............. If you wish we are dealing with some topics on nutrition or sport does not hesitate to share and Coup d'barre will go for information for you. In the meantime I invite you to see the other articles already published if it is not done yet 😉.