Fibre is important for the body to improve one's metabolism, reduce weight or to maintain good gut health. But what is fibre and how much fibre is required by our body? Dietary fibers are found naturally in the plants (fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds) that we eat. They are parts of a plant that do not break down in our stomachs, and instead pass through our digestive system undigested.
All dietary fibers are either soluble or insoluble and both of them are equally important for health, digestion, and preventing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverticulitis, and constipation. Soluble fibers absorb water and form a gel in our stomach, which slows down digestion.
It delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, this may also help one in controlling weight. It also delays your gastric or stomach emptying which may affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes.
These soluble fibres if taken daily may also help lower LDL (bad) blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Soluble fibre is found in oats, beans, dates, pear, berries, flax seeds, nuts, lentils, apples, oranges, oat bran, strawberries, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery and carrots. These foods also work well in controlling chronic diarrhoea.
Insoluble fibres are considered gut-healthy fibre because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet as well as motion, thus helping prevent constipation. Unlike soluble fibre, insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut.
Insoluble fibres are found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But be sure to also increase your liquids o minimise any gastrointestinal discomfort. While probiotics adds good bacteria into our digestive system, prebiotics act as a fertiliser for the good bacteria. Probiotics help our good bacteria to grow by improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio.
Prebiotic fibre is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as the skin of apples, bananas, pineapple, onions and garlic, gluten-free oat groats and flaxseeds.
We have to consume around 25-30gms of fibre every day to make sure we work on improving our gut health. But make sure when you are increasing your fibre intake that you increase your water intake as well, to flush it out well from the body.
(The writer is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices)