Fibre 101

brocolliFibre is essentially what is left after your body has extracted all the nutrients out of the fruits, vegetables, and grains that you eat; it is the indigestible cell walls of plant foods.

There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in fluids in the large intestine and forms a gel. A diet high in soluble fibre helps lower blood cholesterol levels because it binds intestinal bile acids that contain fat and cholesterol, removing them with the stool. Soluble fibre is found in apples, broccoli, and strawberries, as well as other fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in digestive juices, but absorbs water, adding bulk to the stool so it passes quickly through your body. Insoluble fibre is found in such foods as celery, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.

If you’re having difficulty getting things moving, try natural psyllium husks. Taken with plenty of water, this soluble fibre is gentle on the system.

Good Timing

The length of time that food stays in your body is called the “transit time.” From bite to bathroom, a healthy transit time is about 12 to 18 hours. Any less means you might not be getting adequate nutrients from your food; any more means your food is likely fermenting and producing toxins along the way.

Blood capillaries lining the colon absorb these poisons into the bloodstream, exposing them to the rest of your body. These toxins damage all the cells in your body, and long before disease symptoms show up, the evidence appears in your skin: poor colouring, sagginess, acne, pimples, and wrinkles.

High-fibre foods are processed more slowly, leading to improved transit time and nutrient absorption. Studies show that fibre may also lower cholesterol and prevent duodenal ulcers, colorectal cancer, heart disease, and obesity. High-fibre foods are essential in a weight-loss or -maintenance program because they tend to be lower in calories even as they promote the feeling of fullness that discourages overeating. Fibre is also associated with enhanced insulin sensitivity and improved glucose metabolism, and is crucial in preventing and managing diabetes.

Supplements

Along with psyllium husks – oat fibre, flax seed or flax meal, fenugreek, or apple pectin can help get things moving. Supplements containing fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) increase mineral absorption while supporting beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Take supplements with plenty of water.

Fast Fibre Facts

The recommended range of dietary fibre for adults is 20 to 35 g per day. All fibre sources are not created equally:
•Iceburg Lettuce – 1 cup = 0.8 g
•Bread, whole wheat – 1 slice = 1.9 g
•Kidney beans – ½ cup = 4.5 g
•Dried figs – 2 = 4.6 g
•Cooked lentils – ½ cup = 7.8 g
•Raisin bran cereal – 1 cup = 7.5 g

Finally, remember that increasing your fibre intake gradually will prevent bloating and cramps.

By Lisa Petty
Originally published in Alive

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