Fibre isn't the most riveting topic for a conversation, but it does get rather interesting once you realise what it can do for you. Probably you know that an on-going lack of fibre is a prescription for chronic constipation. But did you know that fibre is far more than a digestive aid? Recent research has linked fibre with a whole bunch of health benefits:
Easier weight loss
High-fibre foods take longer to chew and swallow, so your body's 'fullness' mechanism gets a chance to work properly. In short, you're less likely to overeat. A high fibre meal also seems to last longer. High-fibre foods generally have fewer calories per gram.
Lower blood cholesterol levels
The sort of fibre that's found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by reducing 'bad' cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that increasing fibre intake can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, two factors that improve heart health.
They're only funny if you've never had them. Up to 50 per cent of pregnant women experience this problem and plenty of other people too. A high fibre diet may lower your risk of developing haemorrhoids. Researchers are also looking at how fibre may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
Balanced blood sugar levels
A diet high in insoluble fibre has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you've already got diabetes, soluble fibre can slow the absorption of sugar, which helps to improve blood sugar levels.
How much and what kind?
Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fibre a day, while men need between 30 and 38 grams a day. It's good to have a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. It attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. Insoluble fibre is found in things like wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. It adds bulk and helps food pass more quickly through the digestive system.
A quick guide to high fibre foods:
|Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked||1 cup||6.2|
|Lentils, cooked||1 cup||15.6|
|Peas, cooked||1 cup||8.8|
|Baked beans||1 cup||10.4|
|Rolled oats||1 cup||4.0|
|Psyllium husk (a common fibre supplement)||10g||7.0|