How to Boost your Health with Dietary Fibre
Dietary fibre, often simply referred to as fibre, is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. Unlike other carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, fibre cannot be fully digested by the human digestive system. Instead, it passes relatively intact through the stomach and small intestine and reaches the colon mostly undigested.
Dietary fibre is mainly composed of non-starch polysaccharides, including cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins, gums, and lignin. It is found in various parts of plants, such as the bran of grains, the skins of fruits and vegetables, and the cell walls of legumes.
There are two primary types of dietary fibre:
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in your digestive tract.
It can help lower blood cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol molecules and removing them from the body.
Soluble fibre also helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose.
Good sources include oats, beans, lentils, fruits (like apples and citrus), and some vegetables.
Insoluble fibre doesn't dissolve in water and adds bulk to your stool.
It promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation by speeding up the passage of food through the digestive system.
Common sources include whole grains (like wheat bran), nuts, seeds, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables.
Both types of fibre offer health benefits and are essential for a balanced diet. Consuming a variety of foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre can contribute to overall digestive health and may reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.
The health benefits of a high-fibre diet
Dietary fibre offers numerous health benefits when included in your diet:
Prevents constipation by adding bulk to stool and promoting regular bowel movements.
Helps prevent diverticulitis and hemorrhoids by keeping the digestive tract healthy.
Promotes a feeling of fullness and reduces overall calorie intake, which can aid in weight management and weight loss efforts.
Blood Sugar Control:
Slows the absorption of sugar, helping to regulate blood sugar levels, making it beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk.
Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Helps lower blood pressure by promoting a healthier cardiovascular system.
May reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by keeping the colon healthy and reducing inflammation.
Acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria, which can have positive effects on overall health and immunity.
Can contribute to healthier skin by promoting the elimination of toxins and waste products from the body.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases:
May reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain digestive disorders.
5 tips to help you increase your fibre intake
Eat whole grains:
Choose whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and whole-grain bread over refined grains for added fibre.
Incorporate beans, lentils, and chickpeas into your meals. They are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Snack on fruits and vegetables:
Keep fresh fruits and vegetables readily available for snacking. Opt for raw veggies with hummus or fresh fruit as a nutritious snack.
Start your day with fibre:
Begin your day with a high-fibre breakfast. Choose oats, whole-grain cereal, or add chia seeds and berries to plant-based yoghurt.
Read food labels:
Pay attention to food labels and choose products with higher fibre content. Look for items with "whole" or "whole grain" as the first ingredient.
Remember to gradually increase your fibre intake to allow your digestive system to adjust, and be sure to drink plenty of water to aid with digestion. Aim for a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of fibre-rich foods, , such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, to reap the full health benefits fibre has to offer.
The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider, such as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or specific dietary requirements. Nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person, and individual health circumstances may require personalised dietary recommendations.