Even though you never actually digest roughage, it works wonders on your digestive system. Roughage, also known as dietary fiber, comes from the plant-based complex carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts. Unlike fats or proteins, fiber is neither digested nor absorbed, but it helps carry the food through your system and keeps it running smoothly. Fiber can be soluble or insoluble, each of which affects your digestion differently. Most fiber-rich foods contains a mixture of both.

Digestive Process

Your body digests food through the process of peristalsis, the waves of muscle contraction that propel food through your esophagus, stomach and intestines. Roughage helps your food move through this process at a healthy rate and absorb the amount of water it needs to eliminate wastes and toxins from your body. This cleansing helps build the immune system, decrease belly fat and reduce inflammation as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Roughage Amounts

While the National Cancer Institute recommends 25 to 35 g of fiber per day for adults, the average American intakes only about 15 g. To increase the fiber in your diet, enjoy whole fruit instead of fruit juice. Eat less white rice, bread and pasta, and choose whole-grain products instead. Replace chips and chocolate with raw vegetables dipped in hummus or peanut butter. Add more legumes to your meals, even as a replacement for meat.


As you increase your fiber intake, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, at least eight glasses a day. It’s best to increase your fiber gradually to help avoid cramping or gas. Don’t get carried away with eating fiber. More than 50 g of fiber a day may make it more difficult for your body to absorb necessary minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Check with your physician to help determine how to best include fiber in your diet.