The ‘breakdown’ you need to stay healthy

Krista Garcia
The ‘breakdown’ you need to stay healthy
Are you missing out on fiber’s numerous benefits for your body?

MANILA, Philippines – Doctors, nutritionists, health teachers, and our parents all say the same thing: fiber is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.

What exactly does fiber do to our bodies? It helps effectively “breakdown” nutrients and eliminates toxins in our body. Soluble fiber holds a lot of water, creating bulk in our stomachs. This does 2 things: first, it makes you feel fuller and less prone to overeating. Then, it also slows down the absorption of certain nutrients, like carbohydrates and cholesterol, helping to decrease the amount of sugar that enters your bloodstream. So it doesn’t exactly work like a broom: it’s more of a sponge that wipes your insides clean and absorbs the excess stuff.

How much fiber should you get in a day? For Filipinos, it’s 38 grams for adult males, and 25 grams for adult females, based on the Recommended Energy Intake (RENI) levels prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

Unfortunately, many Filipinos are hardly getting enough fiber. According to FNRI data from the 8th National Nutrition Survey, the average Filipino intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and corn products are well below the recommended amounts. These food groups are known sources of fiber. (Read: ‘Too busy to stay healthy’? Read this)

Because of the increasing prevalence of high blood sugar levels and lifestyle-related diseases like obesity and heart disease among Filipinos, nutritionists have been zooming in on the potentials of dietary fiber in improving overall health. You should be paying more attention, too.

SKIP THE EXTRA RICE. The Filipno's love for rice contributes to increased blood sugar levels in national health statistics.

Are Filipinos ‘fiber-deficient?’

What will happen if you have too little fiber? According to doctors and researchers from the FNRI, fiber deficiency is not exactly a recognized medical condition. However, they assert that too little fiber in our diet is still dangerous. Without enough fiber, gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and bloating can kick in.

The latest FNRI National Nutrition Survey also shows that the typical Filipino diet is dominated by rice and cereal-based products. This is the reason why the average blood sugar levels of Filipinos increased from 3.4% in 2003 to 5.4% in 2013. Higher blood sugar levels put Filipinos at greater risk for diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.

Fortunately, increased fiber intake can help reverse the situation. According to Dr. Leonora Panlasigui from the Philippine Association of Nutritionists, fiber helps by slowing down the absorption of glucose into our bloodstream, and getting rid of the excess sugars during digestion.

GET MORE FIBER. Aside from enhancing your diet, consider taking fiber supplements to meet the daily required levels.

Time to find more fiber sources

Many factors contribute to the low-fiber diet of Filipinos. Most Filipino adults love going out and have limited time for exercise. Being too busy can hinder a person from making the “right” food choices all the time – especially in a country where eating a lot, regardless of health benefits, is considered important in socializing. (READ: We need to talk about ‘food shaming’)

If eating fiber-rich options like leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts aren’t always an option, Panlasigui says that there’s always help in the form of fiber supplements.

Psyllium supplements, in particular, have been clinically proven to help improve digestion and maintain the body’s healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. It can also help with weight management: once ingested, psyllium forms a gel-like substance that helps slow down digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer in between meals. It may not guarantee overall health, but it can be a good start to “clean up” what’s inside.

But be careful: conversely, too much fiber also has certain downsides. “A little adverse effect of too much fiber is that it might impair the absorption of trace elements, such as iron and calcium,” Dr. Panlasigui warns. Excess fiber can also cause bloating. Sticking to the recommended levels mentioned above is enough. –

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