Food & Nutrition Health & Wellness

Beyond Digestion: Surprising Facts About Fiber

Most of us know the importance of main nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. But little do we pay attention to fibre, an equally important nutrient in our body. 

It is generally assumed that fibre is something that one doesn’t need to worry much about, or that it just comes on its own in daily food. But the fact is that most of us don’t have enough fibre intake in our bodies. 

Off late, proteins have gained immense importance (and correctly so!) but fibre unfortunately is almost ignored! Let us give fibre due importance and understand everything we need to know about it. 

What is fibre?

Fibre, also spelt “fiber” in some regions, refers to the indigestible part of plant-based foods that provides several important health benefits. It is a type of complex carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and other plant sources.

Unlike other carbohydrates, fibre cannot be broken down into smaller sugar molecules during digestion, so it passes through the digestive system largely intact.

It is something that cannot be absorbed in your body. But though your body cannot absorb it, it is essential for the ‘good bacteria’ in your stomach, and they can absorb it. 

Why is fibre so important for health?

Fibre is an essential nutrient in one’s daily diet. The reason is the presence of sufficient fibre in your daily diet, gives you several health benefits like, it may reduce the risk of death from conditions like cardiac disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes or colon cancer. 

Fibre also helps to reduce your blood cholesterol levels and reduces inflammation inside the body. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight. 

Despite having so many health benefits, most people consume less than 50% of the total daily fibre requirement. 

How much fibre is needed in a day?

One must aim to include at least 25-35 gms of fibre in a day. To be more precise, women can consume 25-28 gms of fibre whereas grown men require around 30-35 gms of fibre daily.

It is important to drop the intake of sugars and poor simpler carbs and increase the intake of complex carbs like fibres. 

How many types of fibres are there? 

To put it broadly, there are 2 main types of fibres, namely soluble fibres and insoluble fibres. 

Let us know a little about both of them. 

Soluble fibres: As the name suggests, soluble fibres are the ones that dissolve in water. After dissolving with water, they form a gel-like substance. Soluble fibres like pectin, psyllium, beta-glucans and wheat dextrins offer several health benefits, they play a role in reducing blood cholesterol and also reduce blood sugar. 

Common sources of soluble fibres are fruits, vegetables, oats, beans, barley and flaxseed. 

Insoluble fibres: These are the kind of fibres that do not dissolve, but instead remain unchanged throughout their journey in the digestive tract. Insoluble fibres have many different subtypes. 

Insoluble fibres like cellulose and lignin are also known as ‘roughage’, these help to add bulk to the excreta and help in the management of constipation. 

Common sources of insoluble fibres are whole wheat, whole grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and produce skins. 

Since each kind of fibre has its own importance and benefits, it is important to consume a combination of both variants. 

Other important facts about fibre

Fibre is found only in plant sources!

For someone who consumes mostly animal-based diets, getting enough fibre will potentially become a problem! 

The common sources of fibre are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, barley etc. And so it is important to consume a sufficient amount of plant-based food to get your daily dose of fibre. 

Fibre sources are not just dull salads, but fibre sources can be interesting and delicious too. You can enjoy berries, apples, pears, avocado, broccoli, citrus fruits etc. Other foods like oats, barley, and brown rice can be converted into delicious recipes that add health and fibre to your daily diet. 

Fibre cannot be digested! 

Though its consumption has several health benefits, it is almost humorous that it cannot be digested in our bodies. 

Of course, some of this unique feature of fibre is what contributes to its health benefits like roughage. It also helps impact the gut positively and also helps regulate blood sugar levels. 

Fibre is essential for gut-health

Though fibre cannot be digested by our body, the bacteria living inside our gut can! In fact, they use fibre as a fuel for their functioning. This means that fibre can improve your ‘microbiome’. Healthy gut health means a better microbiome, which in turn is said to be the ‘mirror of overall wellness’. 

Increasing your fibre intake promotes the health of the ‘good bacteria’ and improves the ratio of the good bacteria vs the bad bacteria. 

A poor fibre intake results in the starvation of good bacteria, which is associated with several adverse health conditions like colorectal cancers, autoimmune disorders etc. 

Fibre helps improve heart health

Heart conditions are one of the leading causes of death in the recent past. But regular consumption of fibre is associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. 

The main reason behind this is the fact that fibre helps to reduce cholesterol levels.

And so it is important to include a sufficient amount of fibre in your daily diet. One must slowly adapt to dietary habits that promote more intake of fibre than diets that are heavy in fats, simple carbs and other processed foods. 

Fibre helps regulate blood sugar levels

Fibre present in food slows down the digestion procedure inside the stomach. This means it takes longer to digest food.

This results in a sustained release of sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in a gentler rise in insulin levels. Too many sudden sugar spikes caused by eating foods high in sugar and simple carbs and low in fibre, protein etc. cause multiple sudden spikes of insulin, which in turn makes the receptors desensitized to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Fibre intake helps with weight management

Fibre stays in the stomach for longer and takes longer to digest, this means that the person feels full for a longer time. Making the person feel full and satiated for longer, thereby reducing the calorie intake. 

Also, foods with high fibre tend to have fewer calories than simple carbs loaded with calories. 

Fibre could reduce inflammation

High-fibre diets are linked to having lower levels of C-reactive proteins, which are associated with inflammations in rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes etc. 

Another possibility of fibre’s ability to reduce inflammation could be the by-product of the digestion of fibre by the ‘good bacteria’ which apparently reduces inflammation. 

Final Thoughts

Having understood the importance of fibre and its several health benefits, one must become more inclined towards opting for meals rich in high fibre. 

Having fibre in your diet on a daily basis could help you live a long and healthy life. And so ensure your subsequent meals are all rich in fibre! 

2 comments on “Beyond Digestion: Surprising Facts About Fiber

  1. Mrs. D P Bhat

    A very well written and informative article.

  2. So informative and well written! Amazing post.

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