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We often hear people saying, that fibre is good for the body and helps in weight loss. However they fail to mention, that why it is good for the body and how it helps to achieve weight loss. Fibre is one of the most important nutrients studied by doctors, nutritionists and dieticians. Also fibre has a great reputation in the world of ‘dieting and weight loss’. In recent years due to rising blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, fibre has become a focal point of interest for many research institutes and scientists.
So what is fibre?
Fibre or dietary fibre which is also referred as roughage(ruffage in American English) is simply the indigestible part of plant foods. Yes, fibre is never digested i.e. fibre is never broken down by the human body. Hence fibre has no calories. As partially mentioned in one of my previous reads – ‘What carbohydrates you are eating’, fibre is a type complex carbohydrate. However it is not digestible.
This characteristic of fibre raises an important question-If fibre doesn’t get absorbed by the body and doesn’t provide energy, why do we need it in our diet?
Just like carbohydrates fibre can be divided into two categories – Soluble fibre and Insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre is a fibre that dissolves in water. Do not get confused, I said dissolved not digested. This fibre forms a gel like material after dissolving in water. Water carries this fibre through our body where it absorbs excess glucose from the food in small intestine, hence helping in removing excess glucose to stabilise blood sugar. Another great property of soluble fibre is that it absorbs bad cholesterol from the blood. The gel like material flowing through our blood sticks to cholesterol and leaves the body through waste removal.
Insoluble fibre is the type of fibre that does not dissolve in water. It rather acts like a sponge where it absorbs waste and become bulkier. Due to its characteristic of being non-digestive it leaves the body intact through intestines with all the absorbed waste. Its main purpose is to improve the movement of food through the digestive system and promote healthy removal of stool from the body.
Some great benefits of fibre rich diet
Soluble fibre helps in removing excess glucose from the blood. It stabilizes blood sugar thus keeping the energy level normal. As a result there is no pressure on pancreas to release excess insulin. As pointed out in the post – “What carbohydrates you are eating’’, excess insulin production in the body can make the body less sensitive towards insulin and increasing the chance of diabetes in the long run. Soluble fibre is recommended to prevent diabetes in people. Food rich in soluble fibre is also prescribed by doctors for diabetic patients.
A diet rich in fibre helps to maintain healthy bowel movement in the body. Insoluble fibre acts as a vacuum to absorb waste associated in the intestines. It accumulates the waste and form a bulkier state before leaving the body. This helps in preventing certain diseases related to constipation. If waste does not leave the body, it starts decomposing in the body due to reaction with bacteria. In some cases constipation can cause serious infection. Insoluble fibre helps in removing this waste.
As mentioned earlier soluble fibre helps in absorbing bad cholesterol from the blood. Bad cholesterol sticks to the artery walls and can damage the heart tissue or can even result in stroke. Research has suggested a diet rich in soluble fibre is very good for removing bad cholesterol from the blood.
Soluble bacteria due to its property of dissolving in water can help to aid the condition of diarrhoea. It solidifies the stool by absorbing water thus helping in smooth removal of toxic waste.
One of the greatest advantages of fibre is that it helps in losing weight. Soluble fibre absorbs water in the stomach thus making you feel full. Another reason is, that soluble fibre absorbs excess glucose from the blood thus lowering the state of insulin production. Due to this, energy is conserved in the body which makes you feel full for a longer time. It’s quite unlikely for a person to overeat when feeling full.
An indirect benefit of fibre is that its presence is usually accompanied with other complex carbohydrates that help in conserving and slowing down the release of energy. Hence a diet rich in complex carbohydrates is a diet rich in fibre.
Foods rich in fibre
Whole foods such as brown rice, brown bread, oats, bran, whole pasta, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, cabbage, carrots etc. are rich in insoluble fibre. Hence these foods can help in aiding constipation and help in healthy bowel movement.
Lentils, beans, carrots, apples, cucumbers, celery, strawberries, nuts, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower etc. are rich in soluble fibre. Hence these foods are good for maintaining healthy blood sugar and removing bad cholesterol.
Some of the foods mentioned above are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. It’s good to maintain a balance between the two. Hence foods rich in both should be considered on daily basis.
Daily healthy intake
According to study conducted by Institute of Medicine in 2012, men and women below fifty should consume at least 38 grams and 25 grams respectively. Above fifty men and women should consume at least 30 grams and 21 grams respectively. Most of the labels mention fibre content per serving on the pack. The good thing about fibre is unlike other nutrients it doesn’t get destroyed while cooking. It’s a good idea to include leafy greens in your cook and some salad on the side daily to maintain a good fibre balance in your diet.
One fun and interesting fact about fibre to think about: The human digestive tract is twenty-eight feet long. Fibre helps move waste along this large muscle.
Keep fresh and stay healthy 🙂