A lot of the debate about diet swings back and forth between the high fat / low carb camp and the low fat / high carb supporters. Then you have the gym-junkies who swear by the high protein diet.
What is sometimes overlooked in these debates is the role of fibre in the diet.
One of the first things that people think about when we mention the word fibre is cereal. The advertising industry has pushed the mantra of eating industrial sized bowls of muesli or corn flakes to “make you regular”.
But for most of human history grains were not available for breakfast. So where did the fibre come from? Well, it came from the plant that our ancestors were eating. They had not invented mills back then so a giant bowl of rice bubbles or cocoa pops was not an option.
So what is fibre? The dietary fibre that we are interested in is the indigestible part of plants that passes relatively unchanged through the stomach and intestines. It is mostly made up of carbohydrates.
There are two types of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble.
The soluble fibre can’t be digested, but it absorbs water to become a gelatinous substance that passes through the body. Insoluble fibre is mostly unchanged as it passes through the body and adds bulk to faeces. It is recommended that adults consume about 30 grams of fibre a day and children should eat 10 grams of fibre a day, plus an additional gram for every year of their age.
What is so good about fibre?
One of the most important benefits is its role in aiding digestion. The soluble fibre soaks up water, which helps to plump out the faeces, and allows it to pass through the gut more easily.
Soluble fibre also slows down the rate of digestion, and this is then counteracted by insoluble fibre, which speeds up the time that food takes to pass through the gut.
A lack of fibre, particularly insoluble fibre, can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, colon cancer and haemorrhoids.
A high-fibre diet also slows glucose absorption from the small intestine into the blood, reducing the possibility of a surge of insulin. This is very handy when you are trying to lose weight by managing your insulin stability.
Things to watch out for. Moving to a high-fibre diet too quickly can create abdominal pain and increased flatulence.
Extremely high-fibre diets may decrease absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium, so stick to the recommended intake. As in all things, moderation is the key to success with fibre.
Dietary Fiber: The Most Important Nutrient
Published on Oct 15, 2013
(Visit: http://www.uctv.tv/) Katie Ferraro, Family Health Care Nursing at UCSF School of Nursing, explores the types of fibers and their health benefits. Series: “UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine presents Mini Medical School for the Public” [10/2013] [Health and Medicine] [Show ID: 25638]
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