I am sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard that dietary fibre is essential for your health. But do you understand all the reasons why? Let’s dig into it a bit deeper.
Dietary fibre, found mainly in fruits, vegetables, beans/lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fibre provide other health benefits as well…such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
What is Dietary Fibre?
It includes the parts of plant foods that aren’t digested by your body. Unlike other components like fat, proteins or carbs which your body breaks down and absorbs. Instead, it passes through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body. Fibre is either “soluble” meaning it dissolves in water, or “insoluble” which doesn’t dissolve.
- Soluble fibre dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fibre is found in foods such as oats, peas, beans, lentils, carrots, apples, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fibre promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases bulk, so it can be of great benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregularity. It is found in many foods like whole grains, bran, nuts, beans and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, etc.
The amount of soluble/insoluble fibre varies in different plant foods, so it’s important to eat a wide variety of high-fibre foods.
How Much Fibre Do We Need?
For men 50 and younger the recommended amount is 38 grams per day, and 30 grams per day for 51 and older. For women it’s 25 grams per day for 18 to 50 years old, and 21 grams per day for those 51 and older. Another guideline is to consume 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories in your diet. So if you consume between 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day, you should be getting 21 to 28 grams of fibre. It’s necessary to note that if you’re not used to a fibre-rich diet, it is important to drink lots of water. This will help to avoid any stomach discomfort.
How Fibre Works
Fiber must be taken along with protein to ensure a balanced, nutritious meal. Protein that isn’t fully digested in the small intestine reaches the large intestine (colon), where it can become putrefied by bacteria into harmful substances. Fiber is the main natural food for these colon bacteria, and its presence helps ensure they won’t generate damaging protein derivatives.
Fiber has an overall positive impact on digestion. In the stomach, fiber absorbs water and creates bulk, which can increase the time it takes for food to move out of the stomach. The longer food stays in your stomach, the fuller you’ll feel and the less likely that you will experience the spike in blood sugar that occurs when food digests quickly and glucose is dumped into the blood. Fiber is the best prebiotic* – food for the good bacteria in your gut.