We've all heard that fibre is good for us. We’ve probably even told the story ourselves. But do any of us really know why?
Fibre is a plant-based nutrient found in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. It is not affected by digestive enzymes, meaning your body cannot digest it. Its sole purpose is to help dissolve the food entering your system.
There are two types of fibre:
• Soluble fibre, contained in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts
Soluble fibre dissolves into something of a gel-like form which aids in slowing down your digestion. It helps prolong the feeling of fullness, ultimately having a positive effect on the weight loss process.
Insoluble fibre cannot be dissolved at all. Its main role is to help food transport faster through your digestive tract.
Health benefits of fibre intake
In case you decide to enrich your diet with fibre, these are some of the many health benefits you can expect:
• Heart disease prevention. There is a direct connection between fibre intake and heart attack prevention. According to a Harvard Health Publishing study, men up to the age of 50 should consume 38 grams of fibre per day. After 50, this amount drops down to around 30 grams. For women, those numbers are 25 and 21.
• Stroke Prevention. Research conducted by the American Heart Association shows that for every 7 grams of fibre you take during the day, there is a 7% less chance of having a stroke.
• Normal blood sugar level. Soluble fibre slows down the body’s absorption of sugar through carbohydrates which helps with the regulation of blood sugar level.
• Diverticulitis prevention. Diverticulitis is an inflammation of polyps in the intestine which can be reduced by 40% with regular consumption of insoluble fibre.
• Haemorrhoids prevention. A fibre-rich diet can help lower the chances of developing haemorrhoids.
• Healthy skin. A member of fibre family called psyllium husk helps remove yeast and fungus from your body which often triggers skin conditions like acne or rashes.
• Weight loss. By adding fibre supplements to your diet, the weight loss process is enhanced, especially with obese individuals.
How can I get my daily dose of fibre?
Considering you’re a healthy individual, you’ll need up to 50 grams of fibre for every 1000 calories you consume on a daily basis. However, according to the New York Times, an average American male consumes only 17 grams of fibre, while with females this number drops down to only 13 grams of fibre. To get closer to the recommended daily amount, you are advised to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Add even more by combining it with certain nuts and seeds.
Here is the list of whole foods rich in soluble and insoluble fibre:
• Chia seeds
• Psyllium seed husk
• Green beans
• Brussels sprouts
• Sweet potatoes
Other than consuming fibre through fruits and vegetables, you can reach a recommended daily dosage by using fibre supplements.
Furthermore, fibre supplements include other benefits like weight loss, lowered cholesterol, improved constipation, and help treat and prevent many other conditions.
The majority of fibre supplements come in a form of a pill or powder and are primarily used as a source of soluble fibre.
Here are some of the most commonly used fibre supplements:
1. Psyllium husk. Psyllium husk is one of the most common fibre sources used in supplements. It originates from a plant called Plantago ovata, and one of the most prominent benefits of using this supplement include sustaining a normal cholesterol level. Other than that, psyllium helps treat haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhoea. It is most commonly found in a powdered form.
2. Glucomannan. Besides being a dietary fibre, glucomannan is also a type of sugar extracted from the root of a konjac plant. This supplement can fit into a dietary fibre supplements category, and it proved to be quite effective for weight loss efforts, showing the best results with overweight individuals. It can also be used to treat type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and constipation.
3. Inulin. Inulin can be found in foods like chicory root. It doesn’t have any distinctive taste, so it’s great for mixing up with different foods and ingredients. Inulin acts like a prebiotic, meaning it stimulates the good bacteria in the intestines.
4. Wheat Dextrin. Wheat dextrin comes from wheat processing. It is a natural fibre often used in a form of a supplement. Due to the fact that it contains traces of gluten, it’s not recommended for people allergic to celiac or gluten.
5. Methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is a type of fibre which its main ability is to bulk up the stool. By increasing the amount of water in the stool, methylcellulose helps with constipation. This is one of the best supplements for weight loss and should be consumed with a full glass of water.
6. Flaxseed. Other than being rich in fibre, flaxseed contains many beneficial attributes such as omega-3 fatty acids, phytochemicals and lignans. Used in a supplement form, flaxseed is easier to digest. If consumed regularly, it helps lower bad cholesterol, improves digestion and relieves constipation.
Depending on your preferences, you’ll decide which form of fibre supplement suits you best. Whether you opt for a pill or powder - it’s totally up to you.
Start by adding a small amount of supplement to your diet. Fibre is known to cause bloating, gas and nausea, so a smart thing to do would be to increase the dose gradually. Drinking lots of water while taking supplements is also highly recommended.
Taking fibre supplements 101
If you are new to taking fibre supplements, there are a couple of things you should know. There can be some side-effects to taking these supplements simultaneously with other supplements or drugs. To avoid any undesirable contraindications, follow these tips:
• Always consult with your physician prior to including any fibre supplements into your diet on your own.
• Slowly increase the amount of supplement one day at a time.
• Don’t take more than a recommended dosage.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Divide the dose throughout the day.
It is a well know fact that fibre supplements can affect the use of certain medications, like aspirin or diabetes and cholesterol drugs.
It can also slow down the absorption of dietary fats in the bloodstream - those fats contain vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids.
To stop any of these from happening, take fibre or any other supplements two or three hours apart from your prescribed medications.
Now that you are familiarised with the most important facts about fibre supplements, apply that knowledge to keep you and your family healthy by carefully adjusting your diet. Remember to always consult with your physician first, and together you’ll figure out which type of supplements suit you best. Follow the rules, be patient and don’t overdo it. Every change takes time but in the end, the results are more than worth it.