Fibre is talked about a lot; how we are not getting enough in our daily diets, how it has many benefits (not just to maintain a healthy digestive system), and how we need to eat more fibre-packed foods.
Fibre is a complex carbohydrate, but is indigestible by humans and is found in plant foods, like cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. There are 2 types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre has many benefits. It is able to absorb water and produces a gel-like substance in your intestines as it passes through, slowing down the digestion process and the absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose, maintaining blood sugar levels, and reducing hunger cravings. Soluble fibre is also able to bind with cholesterol and prevent it from being absorbed back into the bloodstream, thereby lowering the cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Insoluble fibre, as the name suggests, is indigestible, and its main role is to add bulk to your faeces, speed up the digestion process through the intestines, and clean out your digestive system. It is also known as ‘roughage’.
As we can see, including both types of fibre in our diet has many health benefits. These include: lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers (colon or bowel), and assisting in weight loss and weight management. People who don’t consume enough fibre in their daily diet can experience constipation, haemorrhoids, IBS or become overweight or obese, to name a few.
Unlike other carbohydrates, fibre-rich foods are low in calories, bulky and filling, take longer to chew and will leave you feeling fuller for longer. It is believed that including soluble fibre foods in your diet can help to lose weight due to the slowing down of the digestive process, the delay in the absorption of sugars, and by helping you feel more full and satisfied, as previously mentioned.
It is recommended by many organisations that we should aim to consume around 30-35g of fibre daily, and gradually increase the amount to avoid any negative side-effects. Also remember that some fibres absorb water, so make sure you are drinking lots of it. There are many foods readily available to us which are packed full of fibre, including legumes, wholegrain cereals and breads, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, potatoes (with skin), lentils, beans, nut and seeds, and oats. Sometimes by making a few simple changes to our diet we can double our fibre intake, leading to a healthy body. Here is a link to a website which has a breakdown of fibre in some foods for you to look over and get an idea of the difference a few small changes can make:
The main reasons we need fibre in our diet are to help our digestion, to help fight and prevent disease, and to help control our body-weight. By including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, pulses and oats in our diet, we can ensure we are consuming both types of fibre to maintain a healthy body, inside and out.
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