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Dietary fiber (British spelling fibre) or roughage is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. Dietary fibers are diverse in chemical composition, and can be grouped generally by their solubility, viscosity, and fermentability, which affect how fibers are processed in the body. Dietary fiber has two main components: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, which are components of plant foods, such as legumes, whole grains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, and nuts or seeds. A diet high in regular fiber consumption is generally associated with supporting health and lowering the risk of several diseases.Food sources of dietary fiber have traditionally been divided according to whether they provide soluble or insoluble fiber. Plant foods contain both types of fiber in varying amounts, according to the fiber characteristics of viscosity and fermentability. Advantages of consuming fiber depend upon which type of fiber is consumed and which benefits may result in the gastrointestinal system. Bulking fibers – such as cellulose, hemicellulose and psyllium – absorb and hold water, promoting regularity. Viscous fibers – such as beta-glucan and psyllium – thicken the fecal mass. Fermentable fibers – such as resistant starch and inulin – feed the bacteria and microbiota of the large intestine, and are metabolized to yield short-chain fatty acids, which have diverse roles in gastrointestinal health.Soluble fiber (fermentable fiber or prebiotic fiber) – which dissolves in water – is generally fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active by-products, such as short-chain fatty acids produced in the colon by gut bacteria. Examples are beta-glucans (in oats, barley, and mushrooms) and raw guar gum.
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