Dietary fibre is a carbohydrate mainly found in cereals, vegetables, fruits and pulses and cannot be digested by our body enzymes. It is composed of indigestible parts of plant compounds, that can pass unaffected through our intestines.
Fibre plays a vital role in keeping the digestive system healthy, normalizing glucose and cholesterol levels. In addition, high fibre diets lower the risk of bowel cancer and coronary heart disease.
Eating a low fibre diet increases your risk of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and certain types of cancer.
Types Of Fibre In Food
Fibre is of two types – soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. These both types are amply found in our vegetables and fruits.
Pectin, gums and mucilage found in plant cells comprise soluble fibre. Rich sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat, barley, flaxseed, dried beans, lentils, peas, soy and soy products. It plays a crucial role in lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and in easing constipation.
Insoluble fibre is cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin which forms the structural components of plant cell walls. Wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran and skin of fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried beans and all whole grain foods are a good source of insoluble fibre. It adds bulk to feces and prevents constipation and other problems linked with haemorrhoids.
Indian Council of Medical Research recommends 40 grams of dietary fibre to be included in the daily diet.
Benefits Of Fibre
The main benefit of having a fibre rich diet is to promote the health of the digestive system. The intestine is lined with the muscle that smoothly eases the passage of food along the tract from the time it is taken until the waste is excreted out (peristalsis). As the fibre is relatively indigestible it adds bulk to the feces.
Soluble fibre takes up the water which helps to bulk out the feces and allows it to easily move out of the gut. It also slows down the rate of digestion.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
High levels of cholesterol get deposited as plaques along the walls of arteries narrowing the blood vessels, thus increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Several studies prove that soluble fibre lowers blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre lowers lipid levels by binding bile acids and then excretes it.
A diet high in fibre prevents you from gaining excess weight. Soluble fibre forms a gel that slows the gastric emptying time and the transmit time of the food through the intestine. Fibre dense foods are mostly low on calories, keep you satiated for a longer time and control hunger pangs. It also delays the absorption of sugar from the intestine. Thus, a high fibre diet helps in maintaining weight and prevent you from gaining excess weight.
Regulates Blood Glucose Levels
A high fibre diet benefits people with diabetes in maintaining blood glucose levels. Fibre rich diet slows down the absorption of glucose from the small intestine into the blood. It also controls the surge of insulin levels in the blood.
Lowers Risk Of Cancer
Several pieces of evidence have revealed that dietary fibres are beneficial in safeguarding against certain types of cancer. A fibre-rich diet is believed to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by increasing stool bulk, eliminating carcinogens, and lowering the transit time via the colon. Apart from this, bacterial fermentation of fibre in the gut produces short-chain fatty acids, which are thought to have protective traits. A study also found that a high-fibre diet during adolescence and young adulthood greatly lowered breast cancer risk in women.
Don’t Forget To Drink Water
A high-fibre diet may not avert or treat constipation unless you drink plenty of water daily. As some high-fibre meals may have around 10 g of fibre per serving and if it is not accompanied by adequate fluid, it may result in abdominal pain or constipation.
Ways To Boost Your Daily Fibre Intake:
- Have breakfast cereals that contain barley, wheat or oats
- Prefer wholemeal or multigrain bread, pasta and brown rice
- Include a serving of extra vegetables in every meal
- Munch on fruits, dried fruit, nuts or whole crackers
A regular intake of more than 30 grams of fibre can be readily achieved if you have:
- Wholegrain cereal
- Plenty of fruit, vegetables and legumes
- Nuts or seeds