Here's something that can make a big difference to how your tummy feels.
Fibres: Fibres are an essential part of your diet to keep up with a healthy digestive system and a regular bowel movement. Read on to discover why fibre is essential for keeping your gut happy. Further, step into the world of the two fibre types - soluble and insoluble. The blog will help you understand how to get the right fibre mix in your diet.
Dietary fibre is consistently recognised as an essential aspect of staying healthy. But here's the thing: Our modern diets have shifted away from this nutritional gem, especially in Western cultures.
And guess what?
You can link this shift to increased gut-related issues, like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
When pointing out these conditions, we discuss a standard set of metabolic problems: insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels (fasting and after meals), high cholesterol, etc.
It's fascinating that our gut plays a vital role in maintaining overall well-being with its enormous microbial community. And there is a clear connection between your diet, the gut microbes, and the health issues.
So, here's the highlight: DIETARY FIBRE might be the superhero you need to turn things around.
Well, it's all about fermentation in your gut and short-chain fatty acid production, which are by-products of the digestion of fatty acids from food.
Eating the right kinds of dietary fibre can help get your gut back on track, which can help you manage those metabolic issues. It's like a natural, delicious solution to common health problems.
So, consider adding some fibre-rich foods next time you plan your meals. Your overall health will thank you for it!
Let's break down dietary fibre, shall we?
Back in 1953, a scientist named Hinsley took a crack at defining dietary fibre as a "non-digestible constituent that makes up the plant cell wall".
So, it's a plant-based carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest using our digestive enzymes, like amylase. Instead, the gut microbiota works its magic through anaerobic fermentation (a chemical process without using oxygen). The product of this fermentation is the fantastic compounds called SCFAs (Short Chain Fatty Acids).
You may be wondering, "What exactly counts as dietary fibre?"
Fibre isn't what it is chemically made of and what it produces; it's also about what it does in our bodies.
You have already heard a lot about the health benefits of dietary fibres. People eat fibre for its health benefits. How does it do that?
Each type of fibre uniquely shapes our gut microbiota and, in turn, affects our overall health.
How a fibre behaves in your gut depends on its properties, such as;
Let's forget this scientific jargon about fibres and keep it simple.
So, dietary fibre has two main categories:
This is the good stuff naturally found in plants. It includes non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin (a protein in the wall of plants that gives them structure).
When we say "non-digestible", we mean these are the parts of plants that aren't broken down or absorbed in our small intestine. They are like the sturdy scaffolding of plant cell walls, keeping their shape even after severe chewing or grinding.
This category covers those indigestible carbs taken from plant or animal sources but can do fantastic things in our bodies.
They can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels and keep things moving smoothly in our digestive system. Even synthetic non-digestible carbs, like resistant starch, can fall into this group.
Source Matters while using added fibre. Even though it can have benefits, choosing products with naturally derived or minimally processed fibres is essential, as highly refined or isolated fibres may lack broader health benefits associated with other whole food sources.
Incorporation should be gradual into your diet to help your digestive system adjust and reduce the likelihood of discomfort or bloating.
But here's the catch: to be considered "added fibre", it's not enough for a lab to create it. It has to prove health benefits first.
Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of fibre types based on their physicochemical properties:
These fibres are like the best friends of water - they dissolve in. They come from the inner flesh of plants and include substances like:
When they hang out in your colon, they get fermented by friendly bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids.
You can find soluble fibres in the following:
On the other hand, insoluble fibres are a bit more resilient. They come from the outer skins of plants and don't dissolve in water.
Instead, they add bulk to your stool and help keep things moving in your digestive tract. Think of it as the natural way to prevent constipation.
Bacteria do not ferment it, so it does not produce the same by-product as soluble fibre. Instead, it helps maintain regularity and prevents things from getting stuck.
You can find insoluble fibre in foods like:
Now, why does this matter?
Scientists use the term "Microbiota - Accessible carbohydrate" or MAC to refer to those fibre-rich foods that the microbiomes can eat up or dissolve.
This term excludes the insoluble fibres since our gut buddies can't use them.
Soluble, fermentable, and viscous fibres are the star players.
But why does understanding this matter to you?
To know the right time to eat which fibre, you need to know the difference and where to find them.
As mentioned in the previous sections, soluble fibre is like the soothing troubleshooter of digestion. It is excellent for slowing things down in your gut, which can be helpful with issues like:
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is like a reliable mover and shaker. It adds bulk to your stool, which prevents constipation and keeps things regular.
The choice between soluble and insoluble fibre depends on what is going on in your digestive system.
We have understood how a good fibre diet can help you with your bowel movements and other digestive health. However, apart from these, adding fibres to your diet has other advantages.
Fibre helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing the temptation to overeat. It also slows digestion, stabilising blood sugar levels and managing weight.
A lower risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer is seen in a high-fibre diet. Soluble fibre can help lower LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.
While increasing your fibre intake is fantastic for your health, remember that balance is essential. Don't solely focus on fibre - ensure you get a well-rounded diet. Ayurveda experts also emphasise the importance of getting all six tastes in your food.
Pears are delicious and nutritious choices, perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings. They also offer a generous dose of fibre.
Strawberries are a delightful and wholesome choice, whether you enjoy them as a refreshing summer dessert or a quick office snack.
You'll find approximately 3 grams of fibre in a one-cup serving of fresh strawberries, which translates to about 2 grams per 100 grams.
Apples are not only delicious but also quite fulfilling. When you enjoy them whole, you're getting the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse, offering a range of essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium.
Interestingly, green or unripe bananas are also rich in resistant starch, an indigestible carbohydrate similar to fibre.
Carrots, those versatile root vegetables, can be enjoyed in raw and cooked forms.
Besides being a source of fibre, carrots offer a nutritional jackpot, including Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and beta carotene - an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A.
Beets, or beetroot, are a root vegetable packed with valuable nutrients. They offer a range of essential elements, including folate, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.
What makes beets even more interesting is their supply of inorganic nitrates, which could have potential benefits for managing blood pressure and enhancing exercise performance.
Those little cruciferous veggies in the broccoli family, Brussels sprouts, are the nutritional powerhouses. Apart from their fibre content, they are rich in vitamin K, potassium, folate, and potentially beneficial antioxidants that might help in the fight against cancer.
Kidney beans are a beloved legume known for their versatility in various dishes. Like their legume cousins, they offer plant-based protein along with a host of valuable nutrients.
Chickpeas, a beloved legume, are renowned for their impressive fibre content and versatility in the kitchen. They're fibre-rich and provide a good dose of protein and various essential minerals.
You can get chickpeas in various dishes, from creamy hummus to flavourful curries and hearty soups.
Popcorn isn't just a fun snack; it can also be a healthy way to boost your fibre intake.
When you air pop your popcorn, it becomes an excellent source of dietary fibre, calorie for calorie. However, it's essential to note that the fibre-to-calorie ratio can decrease by a huge margin if you add fats or sugars.
The cute little chia seeds can be a fibre-rich addition to your diet. They can go well with any recipe you wish to make. You can add chia seeds to a glass of water for your daily fibre intake.
Besides being fibre-rich, they are an excellent antioxidant and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Quinoa is a whole grain and has a rich content of fibre. It is an intelligent carbohydrate choice because of its rich fibre, mineral and antioxidant content. It is gluten-free, delicious, versatile, and an ancient grain of sacred food.
Avocados are fleshy fruits that contain an impressive amount of nutrients and are rich in fibre, B6, Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin E, and folate. You can eat them in salads and as desserts.
You must include enough fibre in your daily diet to maintain good health.
Some examples of meals and snacks that can help you reach your daily fibre goals:
This breakfast combination provides around 9.2g of fibre to kickstart your day.
Enjoying this lunch will give you approximately 15.7g of fibre, keeping you satisfied and energised.
This dinner combination provides around 9.3g of fibre. Opt for lower-sugar diet dinner versions when possible.
Choosing unsalted nuts without added sugars for your snack can contribute to your daily fibre intake.
Total Fibre Intake: Approximately 38g
Note: Remember that the total Fibre intake mentioned here is an example, and the amount of fibre in foods can vary based on preparation and portion sizes.
However, checking food labels is essential. Many packed foods provide nutrition information, including dietary fibre.
It's easier to understand based on how much fibre you should aim for daily.
If you have yet to become accustomed to a high-fibre diet, gradually increasing your fibre intake is essential. Suddenly, jumping to a high-fibre diet can lead to digestive discomfort, including gas, bloating, and diarrhoea.
To avoid these issues:
The ideal amount of fibre for an individual can depend on several factors:
More than maintaining regularity in your bowels, an added plus point of a fibre diet is helping you in weight loss.
How does it do that?
Foods high in fibre are generally more filling. They take longer to chew and digest, which can help you feel full and satisfied. As a result, you're less likely to overeat or snack on unhealthy options between meals.
High-fibre foods often have fewer calories compared to processed and high-sugar options. You naturally reduce your calorie intake by choosing fibre-rich foods, crucial for weight management.
Soluble fibre in foods like oats and beans can help stabilise blood sugar levels. When blood sugar remains steady, you're less likely to experience intense hunger and cravings.
Some dietary fibre binds to dietary fat, preventing its absorption in the digestive tract. This can lead to lower calorie absorption and contribute to weight loss.
All these weight loss attempts done by fibre aim towards promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which balances the whole body's metabolism.
Two unique ways in which fibre helps weight loss using microbiome are;
With these, digestive health improves, which helps you manage your weight.
Dr Isra, Ayurveda consultant at Nirva Health, recollects how her clients achieved regularity in bowel movement after years of struggle by maintaining a fibre-rich diet and balancing gut microbiome. This was with an added benefit of weight loss.
Dr Isra quotes; "Lisa's journey to better gut health involved adding fibre-rich foods like yoghurt, oats, and legumes. Not only did she notice improved digestion, but she also shed unwanted weight and felt more energetic."
A high-fibre diet can be a game changer for weight management and gut health. It promotes fullness, helps control blood sugar, and supports a balanced gut microbiome.
A rich fibre diet was always encouraged by Ayurvedic science and Ayurveda practitioners. With an inclination towards better health achievement naturally by the modern population, science has grown to substantiate the traditional ways of decorating the plate.
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Dietary fibre is a component of plant-based foods that our bodies cannot fully digest. It adds bulk to your stool, softens it, and helps maintain regular bowel movements. It's essential for digestive health.
The recommended daily fibre intake varies, but adults should aim for 25-30 grams per day. However, individual needs may vary.
Some people may experience bloating and gas when they significantly increase their fibre intake. It's essential to gradually introduce more fibre into your diet to allow your gut to adjust.
Start slowly, drink plenty of water, and spread your fibre intake throughout the day. Doing so allows your digestive system to adapt gradually.
Some high-fibre foods, like beans, broccoli, and cabbage, cause more gas in some individuals. Cooking them thoroughly and using digestive aids like ginger or fennel can help.
Fibre supplements can be helpful for some people, but it's generally better to get your fibre from whole foods, as they also provide essential nutrients.
Yes, fibre can help regulate the consistency of your stool. Soluble fibre can make stools softer, while insoluble fibre adds bulk to help prevent constipation.
Excessive fibre intake can lead to diarrhoea, nutrient malabsorption, and mineral imbalances. It's essential to find the right balance for your individual needs.
Yes, fibre can be beneficial for managing IBS and constipation. However, the type and amount of fibre that works best may vary from person to person.
Individuals with certain medical conditions, like diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), may need to limit specific fibre types. Consult with a healthcare provider for personalised guidance.