Do you often suffer from constipation? Feel fatigued and tired most of the time? Have fluctuating postprandial blood sugar readings? These could be signs indicating a lack of adequate fibre in your diet.
Read this article to find out the importance of fibre in your diet and foods that can help you up your fibre intake.
“Eat more fibre.” This is one diet advice we hear from a lot of diet experts and nutritionists. There is a reason for this: Fibre does wonders to our gut health. A healthy gut is the foundation of a healthy body, mind and an active brain.
Remember how a bout of constipation made you irritable and unproductive at your desk the entire day? Fibre in your diet can help you overcome that queasy, heavy feeling and keep your mind agile too. But that is not the only thing fiber can do for you. There are a host of health benefits you can enjoy if you eat fibre-rich foods daily.
What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is mostly found in plant-based foods, like - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes etc. It is also called roughage as it is the indigestible part of the plant produce. So, unlike the other components of food - carbohydrates, proteins and fats - fibre doesn’t break down inside your body for absorption. It remains undigested and comes out intact from your body after going through the stomach, intestine and colon - as it moves around your digestive system it helps to improve the bowel movements.
There are two types of fibre
Soluble fibre - Soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system. This kind of fibre helps in lowering cholesterol levels and regulating blood sugar readings.
Insoluble fibre: As the name suggests, this kind of fibre doesn’t dissolve in water, it adds bulk to your stool and helps prevent constipation.
To reap the benefits of fibre your diet should have a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Benefits of eating a fibre-rich diet
- Keeps your heart healthy: Studies suggest that eating a fibre-rich diet helps to keep the heart young and healthy in many ways. First, fibre helps lower cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL or bad cholesterol, which is a significant risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases. Second, it also keeps blood pressure in control and prevents inflammation of the arteries.
- Keeps your gut healthy: This is what fibre is famous for, to promote gut health like no other. Adequate intake of dietary fibre helps in adding bulk to stool and initiates smooth bowel movements. Besides that, dietary fibre also keeps the gastrointestinal tract healthy and reduces the risk of various diseases like - colon cancer, hemorrhoids, Hiatal hernias, reflux and more.
- Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes: Including fibre in the diet can do wonders for people living with diabetes or those diagnosed with prediabetes. Fibre slows down the absorption of sugar in the body, thus preventing a spike in postprandial sugar levels. Studies also suggest that people who ate more fibre-rich foods like whole grains saw a reduction in their blood sugar levels and had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
- Aids in weight management: Eating high-fibre foods can also help in weight management and restrict excess caloric intake. Fibre-rich foods tend to keep one full and satiated for a longer time, reducing chances of binge eating and restricting one to stay on track with his/her dietary goals.
- Reduces risk of premature deaths: While there isn't too much evidence to prove this, making fibre-rich foods a part of your staple diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancers. This, in turn, reduces the chances of death due to the complications of such diseases and illnesses.
How much fibre do you need?
“The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends that the daily diet of an adult should contain at least 40g of dietary fibre (based on 2000 Kcal diet) (79). It is recommended to consume a variety of grain products, including whole grains and to choose at least four to five servings per day of fruits and vegetables. Along with dietary fibre recommendations, the significance of adequate water intake should be emphasized.”
High-fibre foods that you should include in your diet
Lentils and legumes: They are a great source of protein and also high in fibre. Lentils and legumes are a staple in the Indian diet. Having one bowl of lentils can help you acquire enough fibre and protein. You can choose from different varieties of lentils - moong, masoor, tur, chana dal etc. Legumes also have high fibre content - rajma, chole, lobia - are great choices to up your fibre intake.
Green leafy vegetables: Most leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, fenugreek, banana stems are rich in fibre, try to include them in your diet often. Other vegetables rich in fibre are - broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes (great fibre source if eaten with skin), cauliflower, peas, okra.
Fruits: They are thought to be rich in Vitamin C and other essential micronutrients. While that is the fact, one cannot ignore the fibre content in fruits. Your best picks are - pears, apples, bananas, berries such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
Healthy seeds & nuts: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds are a great source of fibre along with other minerals and nutrients. Munching on nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts can help you immensely to meet your fibre requirements.
Whole grains: They are a great source of insoluble fibres. Try to include more wheat, brown rice, millets, sago, and broken wheat in your diet.
Oats: They are a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre. Whether you have it as a breakfast cereal or experiment with some other dishes like oats upma or oats chilla, you are sure to get enough fibre from a cup of oats.