Useless ballast? Why does the body need fiber


Describes Candidate of Medical Sciences, Gastroenterologist Konstantin Spakhov :

– The usefulness of fiber to many may seem paradoxical: this substance in food is not digested. It passes through the digestive tract in transit. And there was a time when such food components were called ballast substances. It was meant that they were not needed, like ballast. Then they even tried to get rid of them. For example, for this purpose, the flour was made with a very fine grinding, from which the slightest impurities were removed. By the way, it is very popular today. This is all the famous wheat flour of the highest grades, which is used in white bread, baguettes, baked goods and many more. What can be useful substance that is not digested and does not bring anything to our body? The fact is that everything useful it does in the process of how it moves along the intestine.

First, fiber contributes to food volume, not increasing its caloric content. Thanks to this, the person becomes more saturated and does not overeat.

Secondly, it regulates the stool and prevents the development of constipation. Fiber detains water and thereby gives calves masses and a normal consistency.

Thirdly, the fiber prevents acidification of the medium in the large intestine and thus does not allow the reproduction of harmful bacteria for which the acidic environment is favorable.

Fourthly, due to the qualities listed above, it prevents the development of many diseases of the intestine, and among them not only colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, but also colon cancer.

Fifth, cellulose like a sponge absorbs harmful and toxic substances and removes them, reducing the toxic load on the body.

Sixthly, it approximately fixes cholesterol and fats in the same way, reducing their assimilation. And this action is well studied, there are many studies in which it is shown that the consumption of a large number of foods with fiber reduces cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Candidate of Chemical Sciences Peter Obraztsov :

– Fiber is an amazing substance. In fact, it consists entirely of glucose molecules, the excess of which, as you know, is very harmful. Like all sugars, glucose contributes to weight gain and the development of type 2 diabetes. It is her level that rises in the blood in diabetes mellitus. How is it that glucose is harmful, and the cellulose that is made of it is useful? It’s simple, the solution in the structure of cellulose, this polymer is a long-long “chain”, the links of which are glucose molecules, usually they are from 6 to 12 thousand. And they are so firmly connected to each other that the fiber is not digested by enzymes in the digestive tract. Therefore, the eaten fiber to glucose is not split and sugar in the blood does not increase.

Not everyone will believe me, but there is another substance, which is very similar to fiber and also a glucose polymer, is starch. It looks like a branched and tangled “chain” of glucose molecules. The difference is that the starch in the digestive tract is split to glucose, and the fiber is not. This difference is due to the fact that the glucose molecules differently combine in these substances.

Where does fiber

Most of the fiber is found in vegetables, especially in leafy (almost all cabbages), in the root of root crops (carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, radishes, daikon, rutabaga, root celery), in the skin of fruits, whole grain products (bread and some porridges), in bran, nuts and seeds. The specific content of fiber in some products is lower.

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Fiber is the main substance of plant cells, their membrane. It gives the plant cells strength, and therefore plant cells are more rigid than the cells that make up animal organisms. That’s why you can provide yourself with a sufficient amount of fiber only with plant products.

Not all cereals are equally useful

It is believed that one of the main sources of fiber are porridges. But this is only partly true. Indeed, there are cereals that contain it in decent quantities, but there are also those in which the fiber of the cat wept. In addition, the porridge may contain unpleasant starch. And even there is a regularity: the more porridge in porridge, the less starch in it, and vice versa.

Nutrient in 100 g of grain
Grinded rice
Fiber and useful dietary fiber (g)
Non-useful starch,%
Up to 85
Why are there so few fiber in rice porridge?

The grains of rice that sell to us are significantly different from those collected in the fields. Before they get to the store, they are processed. First, they are “stripped” of the seed membranes and flowering film. The process of removing this husks is called falling. After that on the grain there are attached to it the fruit shells (bran) and the embryo. These useful parts of rice grains containing protein, vitamins, fiber and minerals are removed during the grinding process. As a result, there is a so-called endosperm. This is the main part of the grain, which, in fact, represents the starch reserves necessary for the development of the embryo. There are almost no other useful substances in it. These are the white grains of rice that we buy most often.

Why is rice processed so that it is not useful? Producers explain this solely by caring for us, consumers: it is believed that we love everything white and clean, and everything dark and bran insults our aesthetic and taste senses. But for the sake of fairness, we note that in recent years, more useful types of rice, brown and brown, have begun to sell. They pass less rigid processing, and at times even are not polished at all. So, these grains for the most part preserved the most useful fruit shells and fetus. What is interesting, while they look pretty decent – not white, but not unpleasant.

Type of rice
Cellulose, %
Vitamin B 1
Untrusted (with all shells)

Collapsed (only with fruit shells)
4-5 mg / kg
Grinded (endosperm)
1.5 mg / kg
Anatomy of flour

Traditionally, the main suppliers of fiber in people’s nutrition were bread products. This was due to flour-milling. In any grain there is a lot of fiber, especially in its shells. And if the wheat grain (this is the beloved “bread” culture) is wholly turned into flour, such flour will never be white and airy, as is usually sold.

For example, wheat flour of the highest grade is made not from the grain in general, but only from the so-called endosperm. In fact, they are huge food reserves, which are necessary for the germination of the embryo. In grain, they account for about 80% of its volume. And in composition this part is mainly starch. Proteins in endosperm not more than 10%, and other substances – fats, vitamins, minerals – in general very little. That is, the flour of the highest grade is rich in starch and is extremely poor in cellulose and other useful substances.

To the endosperm in the grain there is an embryo. It is it that germinates when the grain goes to growth, and it has many useful things – proteins, vitamins, lipids, minerals. And there is absolutely no starch.

The embryo and endosperm are covered with membranes, from which they get rid first and contain fiber. If the flour is wholemeal, that is, ground together with the shells, then it has a lot of fiber and bread from such flour is the most useful. Partially, the fiber is in the wallpaper or in peeling flour. In flour of the 1st and 2nd grades, it is already very small. To get the most out of bread, you need to remember the following.

It is more useful to buy bread from low-grade flour – whole-grain bread, from wallpaper or at least peeled flour.

If you bake bread yourself – today it’s fashionable! – then for its manufacture it is better to buy these same varieties of flour.

More often buy flour not from wheat, but from other cereals. It is usually made more rough and, therefore, more useful. For example, from rye most often produce wallpaper and peeled flour, much richer in fiber.

In barley and buckwheat flour, too, more fiber.


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