Dietary fibre is actually a form of carbohydrate that does not get digested by enzymes in our small intestine, and so its sugar units are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Dietary fibre is therefore known as ‘non-glycaemic‘.
However, fibre has important effects on other nutrients within the small intestine and through effects on the large intestine, where few other nutrients arrive intact. It has a range of valuable health effects:
• Smooths out digestion and absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine. It reduces the Glycaemic Index of a meal.
• Provides fuel for the healthful or “good” bacteria in our large intestine which in turn benefit us by making vitamin B12, and by releasing volatile fatty acids from the dietary fibre which are important for the health of our colon.
• Speeds up transit though the intestines to remove waste and toxins from our body
• Regulates bowel action, so reduces cancer risks.
Generally, dietary fibre is present in all plant foods – fruits, vegetables and grains – but not in animal foods. This is mainly because of the different in cell structures – plants cells have cell walls, animal cells don’t.
Insoluble fibre can be found in foods such as wheat, corn, wholemeal bread, brown rice, bran, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds, vegetables and peels of fruits.
Soluble fibre is particularly rich in legumes – lentils and peas and beans (including peanuts) and bean products like ‘soya protein’ – and in oats, barley, fruits, vegetables and potatoes
First, some advice for you if you want to add more fibre to your diet: Increase fibre-rich foods gradually, because a sudden large addition of fibre into your diet can cause stomach cramps, your intestine will adapt in time.
It’s important to always make sure that you keep yourself well hydrated in relation to your fibre consumption, because fibre can dehydrate you a little and become sluggish in your system.
Dietary fibre has lots of plus-features, but it can have a few minuses too. Our health depends on eating a balanced diet which is why it is important for you to have balanced meals throughout the day.