Fibre – why we focus so much in it?
Types of Fibre
There are two types of dietary fibre—soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and is found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Good sources of soluble fibre are oats, oat bran, oatmeal, oranges, apples, dried beans, flaxseeds, barley, rye flour and Brussels sprouts.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is found in grain brans, fruit pulp, and vegetable peels and skins. Good sources of insoluble fibre are wheat bran, whole wheat products, cereals made from bran or shredded wheat, crunchy vegetables, barley, grains, whole wheat pasta, and rye flour.
“Found only in the cells walls of plant foods, fibre is an important element of anyone’s diet, providing more benefits than just improving bowel movements.”
Dietary fibre is important for the digestive health. Good digestive health is defined as “a digestive system that has appropriate nutrient absorption, intestinal motility, immune function and a balanced microbiota” (the community of microorganisms that live in the gut). Dietary fibre promotes digestive health through regulation of bowel movements, fermentation, and effects on gut microbiota.
Gut bacteria changes rapidly in response to changes in the diet. Physiological benefit associated with consuming prebiotics – a type of fibre that feeds the good gut-bacteria – includes improvement of bowel movements and digestive health, reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer, and improve mineral bioavailability. Prebiotics as dietary fibres include onions, leeks, garlic, wheat, oats, chicory root, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Some of the dietary fibres are fermentable when they reach the large intestine. The components produced by the gut bacteria as result of this fermentation have a wide variety of physiological effects. These effects include the increasing bioavailability (absorption) of some minerals, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and improving the intestine cells (enterocyte) health. Other benefits of the components produced by the gut bacteria during fermentation may include the reduction of the body’s general inflammation.
Constipation is a health problem that influences almost 20% of the world’s population. In Singapore it affects one in every four. It is a bothersome disorder which negatively affect the quality of life, can cause hemorrhoids and increase the risk of colon cancer.
A diet rich in dietary fibre with the right amount of water, prevents constipation and regulates bowel movements by increasing fecal bulk and frequency, and reducing intestinal transit time.
Cancer, especially breast cancer, is the number one killer in Singapore.
Between 2011 and 2015, more than 64,000 people were diagnosed with this disease! The leading cancers diagnosed are colorectal, lung, and breast cancer. Some of these cancers can be prevented with a higher intake of fibre!
For years, it has been well established by studies that an increased fibre intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be due to fibre’s tendency to add bulk to the digestive system, reducing the time that wastes travel through the large intestine. This waste often contains carcinogens- substances that may cause cancer, ideally these substances should not stay in our system for long periods; so, increased fibre decreases chances for intestinal cells to be affected. In addition, when bacteria in the lower intestine break down fibre, a substance called butyrate is produced which may inhibit the growth of tumours of the colon and rectum.
The intake of fibre has been shown to protect against breast, mouth, throat, and oesophageal cancers. Fibre may be part of the reason that vegetarian diets have been shown to result in low risk of prostate cancer. Of course, vegetarian diets are also rich in cancer-protective antioxidants
Cholesterol, Diabetes, Heart Disease and more
Fibre, especially soluble fibre, reduces blood cholesterol, adds to the feeling of fullness, and slows the release of sugars from food into the blood. These actions reduce the risk for health problems including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes
There are many mechanisms through which fibre may act on reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors. Soluble, viscous fibre types can affect absorption from the small intestine because of the formation of gels that reduces post meal blood sugar and lipid rises. The formation of gels also slows gastric emptying, maintaining levels of satiety and contributing towards less weight gain. Soluble fibre and resistant starch molecules are additionally fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, producing short chain fatty acids, which help reduce circulating cholesterol levels.
In addition to fibre, many other potentially beneficial compounds within high fibre foods could have protective effects. For example, compounds in grains such as antioxidants, hormonally active lignans, phytosterols, amylase inhibitors, and saponins have all been shown to influence risk factors for CHD, and the combination of compounds within grains could be responsible for their protective effect.
Emerging research shows that dietary fibres have the potential to modulate the gut microbiota and impact health and wellness. It seems that a healthy gut microbiota contributes to an improvement of general inflammation, immune system and even anxiety and depression
How much fibre is enough fibre?
Different institutions recommend different amounts of fibre depending to which health parameters they are looking at.
- For cancer prevention, the intake of at least 30 to 35 grams per day for fibre is recommended.
- For diabetes management and prevention, the American Diabetes Association in their most recent nutrition position statement recommends a daily consumption of a diet containing at least 25g of dietary fibre from a wide variety of food sources.
- Health Promotion Board recommends Singaporeans to have between 20 to 25 grams of fibre per day.
Due to its health benefits and for disease resistance, particularly to cancer and diabetes, Px Plate sets the target for its users of 30g of fibre a day. Based on this target most of Px Plate’s meals provided half of the amount of fibre needed in a day.
To achieve HPB fibre recommended intake, have at least two servings of fruits a day. For maximum benefits add to the fruits an extra serving of wholegrains and vegetables during the day.
Keep in mind that fibre needs water. Soluble fibre absorbs water to become a gel-like mass. Insoluble fibre doesn’t absorb fluid, but traps and retains water pulled from your intestine, which adds bulk and moisture to waste and prevents constipation. So while you increase the amount of fibre in your diet, increase also the amount of water that you drink to avoid constipation.
Always increase fibre slowly to prevent uncomfortable side effects, such as gas, diarrhoea or constipation.
Like the any kind of supplements, food is always preferable to supplements. Fibre-rich foods have a full range of cancer-fighting phytochemicals (“phyto” means plant so phytochemicals are simply plant-compounds) that fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains contain. By having a full range of fibre-rich foods you will maximize the nutritional value of your diet and its health benefits, as the effects of fiber supplementation on chronic disease risk are not known
Px Plate meals
In Px Plate meals you will find both soluble and insoluble fibre, including fermentable and prebiotic fibres, from different ingredients, that are put together to provide the best nutrition. From the wholegrains, like quinoa and brown basmati rice or pulses like chickpeas and peas. The fibre content of our meal also come from the large amount of different vegetables, or even from the chia seeds or walnuts that are added in our chicken dishes. The variety of fibre-rich foods in our meals, ensure that you will receive not only the right amount of fibre, but a good balance between both soluble and insoluble fibre together with other nutrients, phytochemicals and prebiotics effect, which will be discussed further in our future articles.
Px Plate aims to provide you with the most precise nutritious tasty food for your busy schedule. Order now by http://www.pxplate.com
About the Author
Accredited Dietitian (ADS)
Claudia has a degree in Dietetics and specializes in Nutrition Support, Weight Management, Nutritional Wellness & Mindful Eating as well as in Chronic Disease and Cancer Nutrition Therapy.
She is an accredited dietitian member of SNDA (Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association) and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Claudia is also recognized by the Portuguese Nutritionist Board. Claudia has been practicing as a dietitian since 2010 and she spent four years at Raffles Hospital.
With diversified experience from both Europe and Asia, coupled with the expertize of handling a variety of cuisines, Claudia caters to the most varied needs of an individual. When consulting her clients, she educates and creates awareness of the impact of food while emphasizing the enjoyment of food.