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  • Writer's pictureDr. David Della Morte Canosci

DIETARY FIBRE: A HEALTH ESSENTIAL

Dietary fibre, an essential component of our diet, plays an integral role in promoting well-being. This article dives into the importance of dietary fibre, its types, benefits, and food sources rich in fibre.


farro fibra microbiota

INTRODUCTION TO DIETARY FIBRE


Dietary fibre, often referred to as fibre, is an organic compound that falls under the carbohydrate category. It primarily consists of indigestible substances that our digestive enzymes cannot break down or absorb. However, despite their indigestibility, they are essential for our health.


WHAT EXACTLY IS DIETARY FIBRE?


Dietary fibre is a complex mixture of polysaccharides like pectin, gums, cellulose, mucilages, and lignin. They are predominantly found in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.


THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF DIETARY FIBRE


Dietary fibre is categorised into two types based on their solubility in water:


  • Soluble Fibre: This type of fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that can slow down the digestion process. It is found in foods like legumes, oats, barley, fresh fruits, broccoli, and psyllium seeds.

  • Insoluble Fibre: This type of fibre does not dissolve in water. It absorbs water and adds bulk to the diet, thereby promoting regular bowel movements. Foods high in insoluble fibre include whole grains, green leafy vegetables, zucchini, flax seeds, and dried fruits.

THE ROLE OF DIETARY FIBRE IN OUR HEALTH

Dietary fibre is a significant player in promoting our health. Let's discuss the essential functions and benefits of dietary fibre.


HEALTH BENEFITS OF DIETARY FIBRE

Consuming a diet rich in fibre can have numerous health benefits:


  • Regulates Bowel Movements: Fibre adds bulk to the diet, thereby aiding in regular bowel movements. This helps prevent constipation, haemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.

  • Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels: By slowing down the absorption of sugar, fibre can help improve blood sugar levels, making it a beneficial dietary component for people with diabetes.

  • Aids in Weight Management: Fibre-rich foods tend to be more filling, thereby reducing overall food intake and aiding in weight management.

  • Promotes Heart Health: Dietary fibre, particularly soluble fibre, can lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

  • Promotes Gut Health: By maintaining an appropriate intestinal pH level, dietary fibre promotes a healthy gut environment, encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful ones.

  • May Reduce the Risk of Certain Cancers: Several studies suggest that a high-fibre diet may help protect against colorectal cancer.

DIETARY FIBRE AND THE GUT MICROBIOTA


Recent research has highlighted the influential role of dietary fibre in shaping our gut microbiota. The fermentation of dietary fibre by gut bacteria can produce anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, thereby promoting gut health.


fibra microbiota

FOOD SOURCES RICH IN FIBRE


To ensure an adequate daily intake of fibre, certain food groups should be included in our diet:


  • Fresh Fruits: Apples, pears, plums, raspberries, and avocados are top-notch sources of dietary fibre.

  • Dried Fruits: Dried figs are one of the most fibre-rich fruits.

  • Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, and borlotti beans are excellent sources of dietary fibre.

  • Cereals: Foods like wheat, rice, maize, buckwheat, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread are fibre-rich.

  • Vegetables: Artichokes, celery, fennel, radicchio, eggplants, carrots, and leeks are packed with dietary fibre.

ESTIMATING DAILY FIBRE INTAKE


The recommended daily intake of fibre is about 30g. This can be achieved by consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables and two servings of whole grains every day.


FIBRE AND CHILDREN


Children often have a diet low in fibre. For every 1000 calories consumed, children should consume 8.4g of dietary fibre.


CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS


Although dietary fibre is beneficial, it may not be suitable for everyone. A low-residue or low-fibre diet may be recommended in certain circumstances, such as during specific drug or radiation therapies, in cases of allergies or intolerances, or for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.


CONCLUSION


Dietary fibre is an essential dietary component that promotes overall health. A diet rich in fibre can offer numerous health benefits, including improved gut health, regulated bowel movements, controlled blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.


Therefore, it is vital to include fibre-rich foods in our daily diet for optimal health. However, it's crucial to remember that an individual's dietary needs may vary, and it's always recommended to seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine the best dietary plan.



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