Dietary fibres, also known as roughage or bulk, are derived from plant sources. These are complex carbohydrates which cannot be digested by the human body as it is devoid of enzymes for digesting the same. These are generally non-starch in composition and consists of polysaccharides like cellulose, chitin, pectin, lignin, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides.
It can be classified as
- Soluble fibres- These dissolve in water and forms gel-like substance upon fermentation in the colon region of the intestine. They produce gas and important by-products like Vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids which are beneficial for the body.
- Insoluble fibres- These cannot be dissolved in water and even, resistant to digestive enzymes. Due to good water absorption capacity, they add bulk to intestinal content and thus, helps in easy defecation.
Best sources of fibre-rich foods
Apart from a good source of protein and phytonutrients, legumes including beans, lentils and peas, are also a good source of soluble fibres
These soluble fibres reach to colon area of the intestine and after fermentation release important nutrients. These fibres also improve gut health by acting as the food for the gut bacteria. Few of the fibre rich legumes are
|Legumes||Total Fibre content (gm per 100 gm)|
|Bengal gram, dal||15|
|Green gram dal||9.37|
Fruits and Vegetables
Along with a rich source of micronutrients like minerals and vitamins, raw fruits and vegetables are also a rich source of fibres.
These fibres are very healthy as
- Provides bulk to the undigested content in the colon and therefore, easing defecation and preventing constipation.
- Ensures healthy blood sugar and cholesterol level.
Though high fibre content is the characteristic of all fruits and vegetables, some of the best examples are-
|High- Fibre Fruits||Total fibre content (gm per 100 gm)|
|High- Fibre Vegetables|
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds have been one of the most underrated food items, but with increasing awareness, these are now a well established integral part of a healthy diet.
These are a rich source of healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, EPA and proteins. Some of the nuts and seeds are also abundant in dietary fibres that add on to its nutritive value.
|Nuts and Seeds||Fibre content (gm per 100 gm)|
Whole grains and Millets
Whole grains and millets (also known as pseudo-cereals), are an integral part of the balanced diet plate owing to its complex-carbs content. This is essential for core energy building and healthy sustenance of life.
|Whole grains and millets||Fibre content (gm per 100 gm)|
Now as you are familiar with the list of fibre-rich food sources, it is equally important to know the reason why it is essential in our daily diet and how to include them to extract maximum health benefits.
Health benefits of fibre
Improves gut health
Fiber plays a vital role in maintaining the healthy digestive tract. Various reasons attribute to it-
- Provides bulk- Fibers acts as a bulking agent that helps in easy bowel movement facilitating smooth defecation. Consequently, this helps in preventing constipation, diarrhoea and even, chances of colorectal cancer.
- According to a meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal, it is seen that fibre helps in the prevention of both cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease .
- Fibre serves as a healthy food for our gut bacteria. Especially the soluble fibres, ferment in the colon region and release healthy SCFA (Short Chain Fatty Acids) with interaction with gut microflora.
Lowers blood cholesterol
Dietary are effective cholesterol-lowering agents. This is attributed to its property to absorb cholesterol and bile acids that increase the number of LDL- receptors and thus, this accelerates the LDL cholesterol removal.
Studies have also shown that fibre helps in blood pressure regulation, reducing inflammation as well as increasing the HDL levels.
Because of all these reasons, fibres are considered healthy in preventing heart disease, hypertension as well as aiding in healthy weight loss.
“Hippocrates was one of the first physicians who argued for the benefits of fibre in the form of bran to keep the large intestine healthy”
Fibre intake is very helpful in the healthy regulation of blood sugar levels. Being a complex carb, fibre does not digest and thenceforth, release into the bloodstream.
Also, while they remain in the small intestine area, they slow down the rate of release and absorption of simple sugar and thus, improve the blood sugar levels.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, it is suggested that fibre reduces the fasting blood glucose level and HbA1C levels and therefore, should be included in diabetes management strategy .
Aids in weight loss
Nutritionists and health experts across the world recommend good fibre intake if one wants to lose weight and gain health. Fibres, owing to its bulking capacity, have high satiety value. This gives a better feeling of fullness while suppressing your appetite so that you eat less and eat wisely.
Secondly, fibre rich foods are low in calories. As a result, you can add them in your diet and cut down in overall calories.
Fibre has a high tendency to move faster in the GI tract. As a result, it entraps fat and moves it faster through the tract, minimising its absorption.
Also, as mentioned in the above points, fibre can lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This even results in healthy weight loss.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Fibre
According to the Food and Nutrition Information Centre, USDA, the daily requirement of the dietary fibre in adults is
In Men, below 50 yrs- 38 gram
In Women, below 50 yrs of age- 25 grams
But at present, with the transition in the nutrient intake, this requirement is not met and is way less than the recommended value.
Ways to include fibre in your diet
There are easy ways to ensure improved fibre intake. But one has to make sure to slowly increase this consumption so as to prevent probable problems like bloating.
- Kick start your day with a healthy twist to your breakfast. Add cereals which are high in fibre like the one having bran, nuts and dry fruits. Porridge with oats or wheat bulgar is an excellent choice.
- Add whole grains- Include more of whole flours, millets and their flours and more millets like quinoa, buckwheat, foxtail and barnyard millets.
- Prefer more of whole grains based baked goods as compared to refined cereals one. Be it bread, pizza base, biscuits etc.
- Add fruits and vegetables- Include whole fruits and vegetables more in your diet. Add fruits as desserts, mid-meal snacks over juices and squashes. Similarly, veggies can be used as salad or cold-pressed, whole smoothies or even as snacks with dip.
- Have more legumes- Beans and legumes are a good source of fibre and should be included in your healthy plate. Be it soups, nachos or crispies, or dips, beans are proved to be a more nutritious and exciting option.
- Include unsalted nuts and seeds in your diet. It can be added in salads, smoothies, drinks, shakes and even desserts.
Now when you know the answers of ‘what to eat’, ‘why to eat’ and ‘how to eat’, make it a point to healthify your diet for a balanced diet, health and mind. Remember, each step at a time counts for a significant result in the future. So why to wait? Get started now!