March 14, 2014

Today, the world, no doubt, is changing at a great speed. This does not exclude eating habit. In fact, the style of eating has shifted from its conventional way to a new paradigm. This total change in the people’s high emphasis on low cholesterol (fat) foods, as it is evidenced on the vast array of ‘light’ and fat-reduced products lining supermarkets here and there. This trend has not only undermined the consumption of dietary fibre but has rendered it insignificant.

Although people may pay less attention to fibre, its health benefits still remain indisputable. Fibre remains an essential nutrient and a vital part of healthy eating for everyone including those with terminal diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. In fact, soluble forms of plant fibre may help in making the blood sugar swing. Also known as ‘roughage”. Fibre was favourite of people who lived during the 1970s. Its image was resurrected by British physician, Dennis Burkett, who practiced for many years in rural Africa. The rarity of ailments such as hernia, hemorrhoids, diabetes, diverticulitis (small outpunchings of the large intestine), heart disease and bowel disease in that area was due to native diets rich in whole grains, seeds, roots, vegetables and nuts. He blamed the high incidence of these disorders later on lack of dietary fibre.

A 1990 review of many studies examining the link between oats and health concluded that at best, oat cereals may modestly reduce blood cholesterol.

As a matter of fact, no one fibre is better than others. Most scientists agree that different types of fibre confer different health benefits on everyone, including the elderly.

What fibre means

Traditionally, fibre was considered to be an inert part of food, passing undigested from mouth to anus and expelled intact in the stool. This view has been revised and the term ‘fibre’ now encompasses complex carbohydrates and natural polymers such as cellulose and woody plant lignin, as well as pectin and various gums (guar, Arabic, agar, carrageen) and psyllium, among others.

There are classes of fibre:

Insoluble and Soluble forms.

Wheat bran, for instance, is a soluble form that is a good stool-softener but s poor absorber of cholesterol, a function that the soluble form called oatbran performs better. Insoluble fibre makes stools heavier and speeds their passage through the gut.

Soluble fibre includes pectin, gums, betaglucans, some hemicellulose and other compounds and is found in oats, legumes (peas, kidney beans, lentils), some green vegetables (such as broccoli) and potatoes. When you take soluble fibre, it breaks down as it passes through the digestive tract, forming a gel that traps some substances related to high cholesterol. Evidence abound that soluble fibre may lassen heart disease risks by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Studies also have shown that people on high fibre diets have lower total cholesterol levels and may be less likely to form harmful blood clots than those who consume less soluble fibre. A recent USA report has it that insufficient amounts of fibre apparently reduced heart disease risks among men who ate more than 25 grams per day, compared to those consuming under 15grams daily.

Benefit for Those with Diabetes

Soluble fibre in oat bran, legumes (dried beans of all kinds, peas and lentils), and pectin (from fruit, such as apples) and forms in root vegetables (such as carrots) is considered especially helpful for people with either form of diabetes. Soluble fibre may help control blood sugar by delaying gastric (stomach) emptying, retarding the entry of glucose into the bloodstream and lessening the postprandial (post0meal) rise in blood sugar. It may lessen insulin requirements in those with type 1 diabetes. Because fibre slows the digestion of foods, it can help blunt the sudden spikes in blood glucose that may occur after a low-fibre meal. Such blood sugar peaks stimulate the pancreas to pump out more insulin. Some researchers believe that a lifetime of blood glucose spikes could contribute to type 2 diabtes, which typically strikes after the age of 40, and more than doubles the risk of stroke and heart disease. Fibre intake may also help those with diabetes by reducing heart disease risks.

How Much Fibre does the body require?

According to current guidelines, healthy adults should consume at least 26 grams of fibre- ideally 26 to 35 grams daily. But both insoluble fibre and soluble types must be included. Eating 26 grams of fibre daily may seem like a lot but can be obtained by having two fruits at breakfast – time (say a banana and raisins) with whole grain cereal, fruit as between – meal snacks, three to five servings of vegetables daily, and several bread and grain servings.

Proper intake of fibre can attract the following Benefits:

Combats constipation:  The most undisputed advantage of insoluble fibre is its ability to soften and expand stool volume, speeding up fecal transit and elimination.

Improves control: Soluble fibre from legumes, barley, oats, some fruit and vegetables can help regulate blood sugar swings and by lowering serum cholesterol, protect against heart disease. Excess blood fats are possibly reduced by soluble fibres such as pectin, bean and oat gums, and the types in legumes (lentils, chickpeas, navy, pinto or kidney beans).

Possible protection against cancer: In the bowel, bacteria convert fibre into short chain fatty acids, which provide energy for the body and may help protect against cancer.

How dietary fibre can be increased:

Because fibre is central to your bowel health, be careful about suddenly increasing your intake and overburdening your digestive system.

You should only aim for a 5g increase over a three to five day period, and drink plenty of water for it to be effective.

Make sure you get both forms of fibre in your diet.


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