Benefits Of More Fibre

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By Charlie Seltzer, M.D. HuffPo

Because the health benefits of fibre are so widespread, it’s one of the most talked about nutrients.

Dietary fibre is comprised of carbohydrates that cannot be digested by humans, as well as lignin, which is a compound that forms the cell wall of plant cells.

Until very recently, fibre was divided into two broad categories: soluble and insoluble, the classification being based on whether or not it dissolves in water. Solubility, or the ability to disperse in water, was originally thought to predict fibres’ physiologic effects. Research reveals this is not always the case. However, the terms soluble and insoluble fibre are still used for labelling purposes by the FDA, and are the terms most widely used by nutritionists and dieticians.

Researchers are now using other classification systems as well, distinguishing between fibre that exist in whole foods (dietary fibre) and fibre that are extracted or manufactured (functional fibre).

Dietary fibre includes materials derived from plants as well as animals (i.e. chitin, which forms the shells of insects and crustaceans, though people don’t generally eat lobster shells). Functional fibre can be either man-made (i.e., fructooligosaccharides and polydextrose, which are used as food additives) or extracted from natural sources, like the chitin from crustaceans, which is found in nutritional supplements.

Although the different ways fibre is classified is interesting, from a health standpoint, it doesn’t really matter, as the health benefits of a high-fibre diet are independent of the way a scientist groups them.

Benefit #1: Cholesterol Lowering Effects

Viscous fibre combines with water to form a gel in the stomach. Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that intake of viscous fibre lowers both total and LDL (traditionally thought of as the “bad” cholesterol). The foods used in these studies include beans, peas and lentils.

Benefit #2: Heart Disease Reduction

High intakes of fibre-rich foods strongly correlate with lower incidence of both number of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.

Benefit #3: Blood Sugar Control

Since viscous fibre forms a gel in the stomach when added to meals, the result is a slowing of nutrient absorption into the blood stream; this effectively lowers the amount of insulin needed to clear the sugar from the bloodstream and has favourable effects on blood sugar and insulin resistance. This is especially important for diabetics but can also eliminate the post-meal hunger that can result from a dip in blood sugar after consumption of a large amount of carbohydrates.

Benefit #4: Treating and Preventing Constipation

As fibre is not absorbed through the GI tract, fibre-rich foods add to stool bulk and decrease the amount of time needed for waste to pass through the digestive system. Most of the research supporting this benefit has been done using fruit, vegetables and wheat bran.

Benefit #5: Weight Control

Viscous fibre’s ability to increase feelings of fullness likely results from the gel it forms in the stomach, making it easier to eat fewer calories. Additionally, fibre has fewer calories than other carbohydrates. Studies show that people who consume fibre-rich foods are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who don’t. However, the role of fibre alone as a weight management tool has not been clearly established.



Source: Benefits Of More Fibre – Huffington Post 

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