Increasing dietary fibre intake improves the digestive system and reduces risk of various health problems.
Eating adequate foods rich in fibre is important to stay healthy. There are various health benefits of following a high-fibre diet – it reduces constipation, lowers the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and colon cancer.
What is fibre?
Fibre is a compound found in plant cells. This compound helps maintain a healthy digestive tract since it cannot be broken by the enzymes present in the system. There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fibre – Water soluble fibre dissolves in the system and forms into a gel that adds bulk to the stool which stimulates healthy bowel movement. Fruits, vegetables, lentils, oats, and barley are some examples of soluble fibre.
- Insoluble fibre – Water insoluble fibre remains as is through the digestion. Since the fibre remains intact, it attracts water into the stool and promotes intestinal content movement making it easier to pass stool. It boosts healthy and regular bowel movements. Whole grain products such as bulgur wheat, buckwheat, brown rice rolled oats, nuts, fruits with edible peel and seeds, are some examples of insoluble fibre.
Study that concludes fibre can reduce health risks
A recent study published in The Lancet concluded that consumption of wholegrain foods containing dietary fibre can reduce the risk of various health conditions such as diabetes, colon cancer and heart problems.
Researchers from the University of Otago, in New Zealand looked at 243 studies and trials conducted over four decades that involved over millions of people. And they found that for every 1000 participants in the 243 studies, the impact of high-fibre diet had 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of heart disease as compared to those consuming less fibre.
Lead author Dr Andrew Reynolds, said “Our research indicates we should have at least 25 to 29 grams of fibre from foods daily, although most of us consume less than 20 grams of fibre daily”
Hence increasing fibre intake can provide many health benefits and a healthy bowel movement.
Here are 8 ways to improve your fibre intake
1. Include a high-fibre food at every meal – A simple way to increase your daily fibre intake is by including high-fibre food at every meal. You can spread your fibre intake throughout the day.
Breakfast – Include berries, seeds, or some fruit.
Mid-day snack – Handful of nuts
Lunch – Have salad before your meal. Some cucumber and carrots would be good.
Evening snack – You can have a sandwich made of whole-grain bread.
Dinner – Some lentils or beans on the side
2. Vegetable and fruit peel – Vegetables and fruit peels are fibre rich and provide roughage needed to prevent constipation and healthy bowel movement.
Fibre found in peels are insoluble in nature. Keeping the peel on has more nutrition, when you peel the fruit, half of the fibre is removed. Next time when you have an apple, or potatoes, or cucumber leave the peel.
3. Replace all-purpose with high-fibre flour – Finding an alternative to all-purpose flour that is rich in fibre will be good for your gut health and weight management.
Whole-wheat flour, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, millet flour, coconut flour… are some of the alternatives that you can choose from.
4. Replace fruit juice with whole fruits – Consuming whole fruits and vegetables provide more nutrition than juices. When you process the whole food into a glass of juice, the fibre content is stripped into concentration of carbs – sugar.
Instead of having a glass of fresh orange juice, have a whole orange and reap the benefits of fibre in it.
5. Whole grains over refined grains – Grains that are minimally processed leaving the grain intact are whole grains. Whereas grains that are stripped of their fibre-rich hull are known as refined grains. Refined grains are processed for long and that takes away most of the nutritional value of the grain.
Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, brown rice… are some of the examples of whole grains.
6. Fruit makes a great snack – Apple, pears, berries… make a great snack that provides adequate fibre to the body. Most fruits contain fibre if consumed whole. However, the fibre content differs from one another, for instance a cup of watermelon contains one gram of fibre whereas one small pear contains five grams of fibre.
Apples, pears and berries are high-fibre fruits and can provide fullness when paired with protein such as nut butter.
7. Eating salad before the meal – Veggies are good for your gut. Consuming non-starchy vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, cabbage, radish, sprouts, onion, tomato, zucchini… before your meal is a high-fibre choice. Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, potato, pumpkin, parsnips… are high in calories and low in fibre content compared to non-starchy veggies.
Eating vegetables before your meal helps you increase your fibre content. Also, it is a good strategy to consume fewer calories if you are trying to lose some weight.
8. Brown rice over white rice – Brown rice retains the high-fibre bran which makes it a better option than refined white rice. While white rice has a mild flavour, softer and delicate texture, brown rice is nuttier in flavour and has a firmer texture.
Brown rice is an insoluble fibre which means it remains intact even after digestion and improves bowel movement. It also regulates blood sugar levels, reduces heart risk and helps lose weight.
Fibre is an integral part of healthy eating. Healthy fibre consumption is a requirement for humans to keep their gut happy. This nutrient unclogs the system and allows it to function smoothly. On an average, daily consumption of fibre for adults is between 20-39 grams per day depending on age and gender, usually men require a few grams more than women. However, do consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.