Everything you wanted to know about ............... Fibre
16th November 2013
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Everything you wanted to know about …………………………………..Fibre


Dietary fibre is found in cereals, fruits and vegetables. Fibre is made up of the indigestible parts of plants, which pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines. Their main role is to keep the digestive system active and healthy.

Fibre is mostly carbohydrate. The structure of all carbohydrates is different types of sugars classified according to how many molecules are combined in the carbohydrate.

  • Simple sugars – consist of 1 to 2 sugar molecules - glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose and lactose
  • Oligosaccharides – consist of 3 - 10 glucose molecules - raffinose
  • Starch polysaccharides – have more than 10 glucose molecules  -  starch (consisting of amylose and amylopectin) and glycogen
  • Non-starch polysaccharides – have more than 10 sugar molecules - dietary fibre, xylose and mannose.

Dietary fibre is needed to maintain a healthy digestive system and contributes to other processes, such as stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels. Countries with high fibre diets have lower instances of diseases such as bowel cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

There are two types of fibre and both are needed daily. 

Soluble fibre – includes pectins, gums and mucilage and is found mainly in plant cells. It primarily lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and can be obtained from vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, lentils, peas  and soy products. It can also help with constipation.
Insoluble fibre – includes cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, which make up the structural parts of plant cell walls. It primarily adds bulk to poo and to prevents constipation and associated problems such as haemorrhoids (Farmer Giles – a bit of Cockney for overseas readers). It can be obtained from wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, fruit and vegetable skins, nuts, seeds, dried beans and wholegrain foods.

Most plant foods contain a mixture of both types.

Resistant starch has a similar effect and resists normal digestion in the small intestine. A component of unprocessed cereals and grains, green bananas, potatoes and lentils, and is frequently added to bread and breakfast cereals.

Resistant starch is good for bowel health. Bacteria in the large bowel react with and change the resistant starch into short-chain fatty acids which may protect against cancer and play a role in lowering cholesterol levels.

The main purpose of a high fibre fibre is to improve the health of the digestive system. Since fibre is relatively indigestible, it also adds bulk to poo.

Soluble fibre is hydrophilic (loves water) and bulks out poo to allow it to pass through properly.

Good hydration levels are really important especially if you increase fibre intake. I write a lot about hydration as it’s really important – if your pee is any darker than a fine champagne you’re dehydrated (if it has bubbles, see your doctor!!)

Fibre is important as you age. Your digestive system slows down so it’s important to keep regular.

It is thought that a regular intake of foods high in soluble fibre – such as oat bran, baked beans and soybeans may reduce blood cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can narrow blood vessels and an increased risk of heart disease. Researchers think that soluble fibre binds with cholesterol and then excretes it.

Increased fibre intake aligns with loss of excess body fat. Fibrous foods tend to be more bulky, filling and lower in fat. It can slow digestion so you feel full for longer and maintains blood sugar levels (stops insulin spike) so is great for diabetics too.

A low fibre diet can contribute to:

  • Constipation
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Diverticulitis
  • IBS
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Colon cancer

It is advisable to slowly increase fibre levels to prevent gut rot and excessive flatus (farting). Take the natural option (fruit and veg) rather than supplements.

You only get one body. Look after it. Forever.

About the Author

Tim B

Member since: 1st November 2012

Born in the Southern Hemisphere (just), married to the wonderful H, 2 awesome off-spring, shaky bloke, likes to help others, always flat out busy.
Into, health, nutrition, wellbeing, photography, magic,...

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