Few fibre facts

Health

Few fibre facts

Dr Gabriella Diaz

Sunday, September 13, 2020

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FIBRE refers to the structural component of plants. It is therefore found in all plant-derived foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, ground provision, and legumes.

Types of fibre

Although fibres do not sort neatly into groups, some generalisations can be made.

Fibres may be classified as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fibres are commonly found in legumes and fruits. Insoluble fibres are found mostly in grains and vegetables. There are also other classifications.

Some health effects

Heart disease: Foods rich in soluble fibres, such as oat bran, assist with the binding and excretion of cholesterol. Additionally, the bacterial by-products of fibre fermentation in the colon inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver. The net result is lower blood cholesterol.

Diabetes: The rate of sugar or glucose absorption is especially important to individuals with diabetes. Slow absorption, a modest rise in blood glucose, and a smooth return to normal are desirable. Fibre delays the transit of nutrients through the small gastrointestinal tract (gut). Hence, glucose absorption is slowed and this helps to prevent the glucose surge and rebound. High-fibre foods may also play a role in reducing the risk of type two diabetes.

Gut health: Fibre from food enhances the health of the large intestine or colon. Soluble fibres are easily digested by bacteria in the colon during fermentation. This process produces water, gas and short-chain fatty acids. The colon uses these small fat molecules for energy. In the large intestine, fibre increases stool weight, easing passage and reducing the transit time. However, ample fluids like water are to be consumed with the fibre-containing foods. Fibre in the large intestine attracts water, which softens the stool for passage without straining. This helps to alleviate or prevent constipation. However, if a person ignores the urge to pass stool when the signal arrives, the signal may not return for several hours. In the meantime, water continues to be withdrawn from the stool, making the bowel movement dry and hard.

In addition, physical activity improves not just the muscle tone, but also that of the gut to work in synergy with the diet. Although constipation usually reflects lifestyle habits, in some cases it may be a side effect of medication or a medical issue such as a tumour.

Cancer: Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables might be protective against cancer, especially cancer of the colon. While fibre may play a role, the protective role of certain components called phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables are well supported.

Weight management: As mentioned previously, fibre-containing foods absorb water in the gut — they swell, creating a feeling of fullness and delaying hunger.

Any harmful effects of excessive fibre intake?

More is only better up to a point. Phytic acid is a compound usually found in fibre-containing foods. It has been associated with binding minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. The risk of the mineral deficiencies is minimal when fibre intake is reasonable and mineral intake is adequate.

If you have not been in the habit of consuming high-fibre diet, do so gradually to reduce the abdominal discomfort, gas and diarrhoea. Also include lots of liquids.

Recommended amount of fibre

The American Heart Association recommends 25g of fibre per day, based on a 2,000 calorie diet for adults. The figure varies depending on age, sex and caloric requirements.

To obtain adequate fibre, eat two to four servings of fruit, three to five servings of vegetables, and six to 11 servings of whole grains and ground provision daily. Try not to peel fruits, as much of the fibre is found in the skin.

Remember to read the food labels for fibre content.

Dr Gabriella Diaz is a medical aesthetics doctor and registered dietitian who is the director at Finesse Nutrition and Esthetics (FINE) at 129 Pro, 129 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6. Check out 876FINE on Facebook or contact her via e-mail at fine.infoja@gmail.com and 876-522-8297.


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