Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
Roughage food, also known as fiber, is a key component in our diets. Fiber contributes many health benefits to a balanced diet and lifestyle, including lasting energy that keeps you feeling fuller for longer periods after meals.
Roughage also plays a huge role in your heart’s health–certain types of roughage have the potential to lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels. Most heart-healthy diet plans include fiber for this reason, and as long as you keep roughage as a regular part of your diet plan, you are on the right track towards significantly decreasing your risk for heart disease.
What exactly is roughage, though, and why is it such an important nutrient to help combat threats to your heart’s health? Today, Zizi discusses roughage food, what it is, how much you should consume, and why it’s important for your heart health.
What Is Roughage Food?
Roughage is another term for dietary fiber and is a carbohydrate in plant-derived foods. More specifically, roughage is the carbohydrate portion of plant-derived foods that your body cannot digest. Roughage foods from these nondigestible carbohydrate portions of plants include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Fiber is a unique carbohydrate because your body normally breaks down carbohydrates into glucose sugar molecules — yet cannot digest roughage. Instead of breaking roughage down, your body allows it to pass into your digestive track untouched and absorbs it for energy.
As your body does not digest roughage, this carbohydrate does not supply your body with calories or nutrients. However, fiber is still a key component of your diet because it helps regulate how your body uses sugars and thus plays a vital role in your eating habits and overall long-term weight.
How Many Types of Roughage Food Are There?
There are two types of roughage — soluble and insoluble. Most foods rich in roughage content comprise a combination of both types but are still usually richer in one type.
Regardless of whether a certain food contains one or both types of roughage, you should eat various roughage-based foods. You need a mixture of both types of roughage to keep your digestive system healthy.
Let’s explore what these two types are below. Each type depends on whether it can absorb water or not once it enters your gut.
Soluble fiber can dissolve in or absorb water–when it enters your gut, it absorbs water and takes on a gel-like consistency. This consistency allows your gut bacteria to break down the substance more easily.
Soluble fiber helps keep your blood sugar levels from spiking because it slows down your overall digestive process and prevents rapid glucose absorption in your bloodstream. The thick gel-like substance that soluble fiber becomes when it absorbs water also helps trap fats and prevent their absorption.
If soluble fiber absorbs water, it is logical that insoluble fiber cannot absorb water. This means that this type of fiber has a more rigid and less gel-like structure. Rather than forming a gel in your intestines, it remains mostly unchanged as it moves through your tract, exiting as the primary, bulk component in your stool.
As insoluble fiber has a more rigid, bulky structure, it helps move materials through your digestive tract and is the reason for soft, regular stools. A leading cause of constipation is inadequate fiber intake.
How Does Roughage Benefit Cholesterol Levels?
Fiber is a key ingredient for a healthy diet because it keeps you full for a long time. This means that roughage food provides lasting energy to prevent overeating and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, fiber-rich diets are associated with lower overall bad LDL cholesterol levels. Specifically, soluble fiber contributes to lower LDL cholesterol levels.
We just discussed that the thick gel-like substance that soluble fiber becomes when it absorbs water helps to trap fats and prevent their absorption. As cholesterol is a lipid or fat, soluble fiber traps cholesterol and prevents your body from reabsorbing it back into your bloodstream.
Instead, the bacteria in your gut feed on soluble fiber, and your intestines eliminate any excess cholesterol via your stool. Fermentation is the process by which your healthy gut bacteria feed on or ferment soluble fiber before the rest exits your body as part of your stool.
Fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which your body also absorbs, and this absorption further helps decrease your LDL levels. When your body absorbs these SCFAs, your liver decreases its cholesterol synthesis, which greatly lessens the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream.
All this talk about soluble fibers, but what about insoluble roughage? Because it cannot form a gel to accomplish decreased cholesterol synthesis or absorption, insoluble fiber does not have the same potential to lower your cholesterol levels.
However, insoluble fiber still presents various health benefits because it adds bulk to your stool. This means that insoluble fiber aids in regular and healthy bowel movements that are critical to a healthy lifestyle with sustainable energy and activity.
How Effective Is Soluble Fiber at Lowering Cholesterol?
Studies and meta-analyses indicate that if you regularly consume soluble fiber as part of your heart-healthy diet, you may reduce your total and bad LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10%.
How Much Roughage Should I Consume Daily?
General guidelines suggest that you should aim to consume around 25 grams of fiber daily as part of a heart-healthy diet. If you are biologically female, you should try to consume 25 to 28 grams of fiber per day, and if you are biologically male, you should aim to eat 31 to 34 grams of fiber daily.
Unfortunately, only about 5% of Americans consume the adequate recommended daily fiber dose, and soluble fiber only comprises around 6 grams of their total consumption amount.
What Happens If I Don’t Eat Enough Roughage?
Different health complications can arise if you don’t eat enough roughage. A common affliction associated with low fiber intake is constipation. Another digestion issue that may arise is dysbiosis, which means that an unhealthy amount of harmful bacteria start to grow in your gut.
What About Too Much Roughage?
While roughage is an important component of a healthy diet, there is still such thing as too much. If you consume much more than 35 grams per day, you could start to present with symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Make sure that you stay hydrated alongside your fiber consumption so that you allow ample opportunity for your soluble fiber to absorb the water and form a gel. You should also be cautious about suddenly increasing your fiber intake — if you are not used to eating a lot of fiber in your diet, then you should slowly introduce roughage food into your meal plans and gradually incorporate more until you slowly reach your recommended daily dose.
What High Roughage Foods Will Help My Cholesterol Levels?
Remember that when it comes to roughage food and cholesterol levels, only soluble fiber can help to lower your LDL levels. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include:
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
- Seeds such as chia or flax
- Certain fruits and vegetables, such as avocados, apples, or peas
Let Zizi Help You Find a Cholesterol-Lowering Solution
Roughage food, also known as dietary fiber, is an important component of a healthy diet and lifestyle. While roughage does not supply your body with nutrients, it can support a healthy gut, an efficiently working digestive tract, regular bowel movements, and overall weight management.
In addition to these many health benefits, roughage food in the form of soluble fiber can help greatly lower your LDL cholesterol levels to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle. That’s why Zizi’s plant-based nutrition plan incorporates lots of different food options rich in soluble fiber, as well as access to live chats with a dietician to help you develop a nutrition plan that is unique to your own lifestyle.
At Zizi, we believe that care should come easy, especially regarding your heart health. Buy our heart health program today!
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