It used to be called “roughage”, and people tried to get rid of it. Now we have heard plenty about it, but why do we need fibre in our diet? Dietary fibre is actually a form of carbohydrate that does not get digested by enzymes in our small intestine and so it’s sugar units are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Dietary fibre is therefore known as ‘non-glycaemic‘.
But this is why fibre is important in your daily eating:
- You feel more energised
- You feel fuller for longer
- To promote digestive regularity
- To maintain a healthy weight
- To lower cholesterol levels
- To reduce blood sugar levels and can present type 2 diabetes
Fibre is the part of foods that the body cannot digest or absorb. Found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, fibre has many health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of heart disease and aiding in digestive health. Therefore, it is important to consume fibre-rich foods every day to improve the length and quality of life.
Two types of fibre are needed for overall health. Insoluble fibre, found in whole-wheat flour products, wheat bran, nuts and vegetables, increases stool bulk and promotes movement of food through the digestive system.
Soluble fibre, found in oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots and citrus fruits, dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that slows absorption of food components, thus allowing the body to retain more nutrients.
Soluble fibre dissolves in the water in your digestive system. It may help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood. If you have constipation, gradually increasing sources of soluble fibre – such as fruit and vegetables, oats and golden linseeds – can help soften your stools and make them easier to pass.
Foods that contain soluble fibre include:
- oats, barley and rye
- fruit, such as bananas and apples
- root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes
- golden linseeds
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water. It passes through your gut without being broken down and helps other foods move through your digestive system more easily. Insoluble fibre keeps your bowels healthy and helps prevent digestive problems. If you have diarrhoea, you should limit the amount of insoluble fibre in your diet.
Good sources of insoluble fibre include:
- wholemeal bread
- nuts and seeds (except golden linseeds)
Eating foods high in fibre will help you feel fuller for longer.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams a day for men. This recommended daily intake can easily be achieved through regular consumption of whole grains and beans, as well as two to three servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Happy Healthy Fabulous
Photography: Hemisha Bhana