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What is a High Fibre Diet: Discover the Type and Health Benefits of High-Fibre Foods | Max Hospital

Boost Your Health with High-Fibre Foods

By Ritika Samaddar in Nutrition And Dietetics

Jun 11 , 2024 | 8 min read

The role of fibre in curing constipation is widely known. Apart from that, it also performs other vital roles in our body, including management of blood sugar levels and efficient absorption of minerals. 

What is Fibre (Dietary Fibre)? 

Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that the human body cannot digest. Unlike other carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar molecules, fibre passes through the digestive system relatively intact. This unique property allows fibre to play several important roles in maintaining health.

Fibre is essential for good digestive health, helping to keep the digestive system running smoothly by adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements. It also aids in managing blood sugar levels, which can help prevent and manage diabetes

Fibre also supports heart health by helping to lower cholesterol levels and can aid in weight management by providing a sense of fullness, which can prevent overeating. Beyond these benefits, a high-fibre diet is associated with a lower risk of developing various chronic diseases, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.

What are the Types of Fibre?

There are two main types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. They differ in how they interact with water and how they affect your digestion:

Soluble Fibre

This beneficial fibre type readily dissolves in water, forming a gel-like consistency within the gut. This gel offers several health advantages. It slows the digestive process, thereby promoting a feeling of fullness (satiety) and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Additionally, soluble fibre can contribute to lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract, hindering its absorption. In essence, soluble fibre acts like a microscopic magnet, attracting and escorting unwanted cholesterol out of the body. Examples of foods containing high levels of soluble fibre include oats, barley, psyllium husk, apples, citrus fruits, and even carrots.

Insoluble Fibre

This type of fibre, known for its contribution to regularity, does not dissolve in water. Instead, it adds bulk to stool, facilitating the smooth passage of food through the digestive system. This translates to a significant benefit: prevention of constipation. Insoluble fibre also plays a role in feelings of satiety, helping you feel satisfied after eating. One can think of insoluble fibre as adding roughage to the diet, promoting a sense of fullness without contributing extra calories. Leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and wheat bran are all excellent sources of insoluble fibre.

How Much Fibre Do You Need Daily?

The recommended daily intake of dietary fibre varies by age, sex, and other factors. Here are the general guidelines:

Adults under 50

  • Women: 25 to 30 grams per day
  • Men: 30 to 40 grams per day

These are general recommendations, and individual needs may vary. Some health conditions or goals might require adjustments to your fibre intake. It's always best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice. 

High-Fibre Foods to Add to Your Diet

Incorporating food rich in dietary fibre into your diet can provide numerous health benefits. Here are some excellent high-fibre foods to consider:

Legumes

  • Lentils: Lentils are fibre powerhouses and can be used in soups, stews, salads, and as a meat substitute in various dishes.
  • Beans: Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and others are excellent sources of fibre. They can be added to salads, stews, and made into spreads like hummus.

Vegetables

Vegetables are another excellent source of fibre. Some particularly good high fibre vegetables include:

  • Artichokes: Known for their high fibre content, artichokes can be enjoyed steamed or added to salads and dips.
  • Broccoli: This cruciferous vegetable is rich in fibre and nutrients. It can be eaten raw, steamed, or roasted.
  • Carrots: Carrots are versatile and can be added to salads, soups, or eaten as a crunchy snack.

Fruits

Most fruits contain fibre, but some are particularly good sources. These include:

  • Berries: Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are not only delicious but also packed with fibre. They can be easily added to cereals, yoghurt, or smoothies.
  • Apples and Pears: These fibre rich fruits are best eaten with their skins, which contain a significant amount of fibre. They make convenient, portable snacks.
  • Bananas: Bananas are a great source of fibre and also provide essential vitamins and minerals like potassium.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a great way to add fibre to your diet. Look for options such as:

  • Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the high-fibre grains that is also a complete protein, making it a great addition to salads, bowls, and side dishes.
  • Oats: Oats are well-known for their fibre content and are a popular choice for breakfast. They can be used in oatmeal, baked goods, or even smoothies.
  • Brown Rice and Barley: These grains are high in fibre and can be used as bases for a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to soups.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a good source of fibre, as well as healthy fats and protein. Some good choices include:

  • Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are extremely high in fibre and can be sprinkled on yoghurt, mixed into smoothies, or used to make chia pudding.
  • Flaxseeds: These seeds are high fibre seeds and can be added to cereals, baked goods, or smoothies.
  • Almonds and Pistachios: High fibre nuts like almonds and pistachios are great for satisfying snacks and can also be added to dishes for extra crunch and nutrition.

Other High-fibre Foods

  • Avocado: Avocado is rich in fibre and healthy fats, making it a great addition to salads, toast, and smoothies.
  • Popcorn: When air-popped and without too much added fat and salt, popcorn can be a healthy, fibre-rich snack.
  • Edamame: These young soybeans are high in fibre and also provide a good amount of protein, making them a nutritious snack or addition to meals.

What are the Benefits of a High-fibre Diet?

Improves Digestive Health

Fibre is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It adds bulk to the stool, which helps to ensure regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Regular fibre intake can also reduce the risk of developing digestive disorders such as diverticulitis, a condition where small, bulging pouches develop in the digestive tract and become inflamed. Additionally, foods that have high fibre help in maintaining overall gut health by promoting regularity and reducing the incidence of haemorrhoids.

Helps Manage Blood Sugar Levels

Soluble fibre, in particular, plays a significant role in slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels, preventing sharp spikes and drops. For individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition, a high-fibre diet can be particularly beneficial. It can improve blood sugar control and reduce the need for additional medication.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

One of the well-known benefits of soluble fibre is its ability to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fibre binds with cholesterol particles in the digestive system and helps remove them from the body. By lowering LDL cholesterol levels, fibre helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.

Aids in Weight Management

High-fibre foods are more filling than low-fibre foods, which can help control appetite and reduce overall calorie intake. Because fibre takes longer to chew and digest, it helps you feel full for a longer period, reducing the likelihood of overeating. This can be especially helpful for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, many high-fibre foods are low in calories, further supporting weight management efforts.

Supports Heart Health

A diet rich in fibre is strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Fibre helps to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, both of which are important factors in maintaining heart health. By improving cholesterol levels and aiding in weight management, fibre indirectly supports cardiovascular health, making it a crucial component of a heart-healthy diet.

Promotes Gut Health

Fibre acts as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria play a vital role in maintaining digestive health, enhancing immune function, and even influencing mood and mental health. A healthy gut microbiome, supported by a high-fibre diet, is essential for overall well-being. Prebiotic fibres found in foods like garlic, onions, and asparagus can specifically help to enhance the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Reduces Risk of Certain Cancers

Research suggests that a high-fibre diet may lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Fibre helps to keep the digestive system clean and functioning well, potentially removing carcinogenic substances before they can cause harm. Some studies also indicate that fibre might help reduce the risk of other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, by influencing hormone levels and improving the body’s ability to remove toxins.

Enhances Nutrient Absorption

Fibre rich foods can help to slow down the digestive process, allowing for better absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat. This means that your body can make more efficient use of the vitamins and minerals present in your diet, contributing to better overall health. Improved nutrient absorption can enhance energy levels, support immune function, and promote optimal functioning of all bodily systems.( this para can be removed, as fibre sometimes inhibit the absorption of nutrients)

Improves Skin Health

By promoting regular detoxification through the digestive system, fibre enriched foods can help to remove toxins from the body. This can lead to clearer skin and may reduce the incidence of skin problems such as acne. Fibre’s role in maintaining balanced hormone levels can also contribute to healthier skin.

Supports Longevity

A diet high in fibre has been linked to a lower risk of dying from any cause, partly due to the reduction in chronic disease risk. By supporting heart health, managing blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of certain cancers, fibre contributes to overall longevity and quality of life.

Conclusion

Incorporating high-fibre foods into your daily routine can lead to significant improvements in digestive health, better management of blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. The best way to do this is to start your day with a fibre-rich breakfast, like oatmeal topped with berries and nuts. This simple yet nutritious meal provides a substantial amount of fibre and also sets a healthy tone for the rest of the day.