Fibre is made up of a number of complex carbohydrates. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre is beneficial to help lower blood cholesterol levels and, in people with diabetes, helps to control blood sugar. Soluble fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, dried peas, soybeans, lentils, oats, rice and barley.
Because of its 'bulking properties' it give a feeling of fullness. This helps in weight control as you feel fuller on less food. In addition, fibre is not absorbed, so cannot be turned into calories through digestion. Foods containing insoluble fibre include wholegrain and wholemeal wheat-based breads, cereals and pasta. There aren't calories in fibre, but it plays important role in the process of digestion. There are cellulose and pectin in fibre, which give bowels active, that's why shortage of fibre is a reason of constipation. Besides that there are vitamins, basic salt and microelements, which are necessary for normal digestion.
Fibre is only found in the cell walls of plants. Foods such as meat, fish and dairy products contain no fibre at all. Fibre is found in cereal grains such as wheat, oats, barley and rice. It is also present in nuts and seeds, such as peanuts and sunflower seeds; fruit and vegetables (with skins and peels left on) and also in pulses such as dried beans and lentils.
Fibre is essential for healthy bowel function. Fibre absorbs water and swells to become bulky, and helps the speedy and easy elimination of waste from the body. In this way a high fibre diet can cure or prevent digestive problems such as constipation, diverticuiosis and haemorrhoids. Doctors say we should increase our dietary fibre intake by 50 per cent over the next 15 years.
A diet rich in fibre has many health benefits. It reduces the risk of a number of bowel problems - some of them quite serious. These include constipation, haemorrhoids (piles), diverticular disease and cancer of the colon or large bowel. In addition, soluble fibre helps to stabilise blood sugar levels because it slows down the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the blood stream. It also helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, which is important for reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore the feeling of fullness which fibre produces can help people who are trying to lose weight to control their appetite.
In the USA most people eat far too little fibre, on average about 12 grams a day or less. Ideally, adults should aim for an intake of around 20 grams a day, or even a little more. A word of caution: if you would like to increase your fibre intake from a relatively low level, it is best to do it gradually. This is because a sudden increase may produce wind, bloating and stomach cramps - which can be rather uncomfortable for a little while. A gradual increase will avoid this problem.
All plant-based foods will contain fibre. Some more so than others. Good sources of fibre are fruit, vegetables, wholegrain rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, many breakfast cereals, nuts, seeds and bran. Particularly good sources of soluble fibre are fruit, vegetables, beans and oats.
|Food||Fibre per 100 gramms|
|Whole wheat bread||13|
|Whole wheat flour||9|
|Wheat bread||2, 5|
|Dry fruits, nuts|
|Boiled green peas||12|
|Fresh fruit, berries|