Dietary Fibre Fact Sheet

WHAT IS DIETARY FIBRE?

WHAT IS DIETARY FIBRE?

Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our body. It is found in edible plant foods such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, dried peas, nuts, lentils and grains. Fibre is grouped by its physical properties and is called soluble, insoluble. All types of fibre have important roles to play.

WHERE ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FIBRE FOUND?

  • Soluble fibre is found in foods like fruit, oats, beans and barley. When it dissolves in water it forms a gel-like substance. Soluble fibre helps to:

    • Support the growth of friendly bacteria needed to help maintain a healthy gut

    • Reduce cholesterol absorption by binding to it in the gut

    • Slow down the time it takes for food to pass through the stomach into the small intestine. This helps slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and has the benefits of keeping you feeling fuller for longer, helping to control blood sugar levels, which are important for the management of diabetes

Resistant Starch develops during the heating and then cooling of some foods such as potato and rice. Foods high in resistant starch often have a low glycemic index.

  • Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is found in foods like wholemeal bread, wheat bran, vegetables and nuts. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools by absorbing water, and helps to keep you regular. It is important to increase your fluid intake as you increase fibre. Without fluid, the fibre stays hard, making it difficult to pass and causing constipation

WHAT DOES FIBRE DO?

Benefits of Fibre in the Diet

    • For cardiovascular health:

    Soluble fibre can help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol.

    • For improved control of diabetes and blood sugars:

    Fibre helps to regulate or slow glucose absorption.

    • For maintaining digestive health:

    Dietary fibre helps keep the gut healthy and is important in helping to reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. Fibre reaches the large bowel undigested where it is fermented by bacteria. The by-products of this fermentation are carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The SCFAs are used by the body. Initially, increasing fibre intake can cause an increase in gas production which can result in bloating. However, depending on the type of fibre chosen, our bodies do adapt and gas production for most people should decrease over time. Soluble fibre and resistant starch also function as pre-biotics and support the pro-biotics (bacteria) we have in our large bowel which are essential for digestive health. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stool, keeping stool soft and the bowels moving regularly.

    • For weight loss:

    Both types of fibre make you feel full without adding a lot of calories or fat.

    • For cancer prevention:

    Fibre-rich foods contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, known to reduce risk for certain types of cancer.

    • For overall health:

    Foods with fibre have lots of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Fibre also helps our bowels to function properly on a regular basis.

    WHICH FOODS ARE RICH IN FIBRE?

    Dietary fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals. Most sources of dietary fibre tend to have a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre in varying proportions.  Resistant starch is not always measured when fibre is assessed in a food and we may underestimate how much fibre is present in some foods.
    Table 1 : Fibre content of common foods.(Nutritive value of Indian foods, NIN)

Cereals       

Fibre in g/100g edible portion

Rice

0.2

Wheat          

1.2

Bajra

1.2

Maize            

2.7

Jowar

1.6

Ragi

3.6

Bengal gram, whole   

3.9

Green gram, whole   

4.1

Carrot                

4.4

Cauliflower        

1.2

Lotus stem, dry    

25.0

Guava     

5.2

Dates fresh 

3.7

Identify packaged foods that are sources of fibre, check the per serve column of the nutrition information panel.  The industry code of practice utilizes the following Codex guidelines.

3 g per 100g or 1.5 g per 100 Kcal or 10 % of daily reference value per serving = Source of fibre

6g per 100g or 3g per 100 Kcal or 20 % of daily reference value per serving = High in fibre

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED AND IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE TOO MUCH?

Based on energy intake, a level of about 40g of fiber/2000 Kcal in a diet is considered reasonably safe by Indian council f Medical Research.Intakes in excess of 60 g of fibre over a day can reduce the absorption of nutrients and may cause irritation in the bowel apart from diarrhoea.

It has been suggested that achieving a fibre intake higher than the average can help reduce the risk of some diseases. Introducing too much fibre too quickly or eating too much can cause constipation or diarrhoea in some people. It is important to introduce fibre into your diet gradually and ensure that you drink adequate amounts of fluid.

  Remember to drink plenty of water as well to prevent constipation.

Examples of high fibre foods include all bran cereals, lentils, flax seed, chick peas, dried figs, kidney beans, green peas, spinach and pears. 
Examples of foods that contain 2-4 grams of fibre per serving include soybeans, carrots, wheat germ, apples, popcorn, baked potatoes, almonds, strawberries, oranges, broccoli and corn. 

TIPS FOR BOOSTING FIBRE IN YOUR DIET

It's easy to get more fibre in your diet but remember if you're going from a low fibre diet then add fibre in slowly and you won't suffer the bloating discomfort than can occur. Try some of these ideas:

  • Change to a breakfast cereal that is high in fibre; add some extra bran, dried fruit or nuts. Porridge oats are also a good choice as they contain soluble fibre

  • Choose wholegrain or wholemeal bread instead of white. Add variety to sandwiches by including salad items such as lettuce, grated carrots and tomatoes

  • Curb afternoon cravings by eating fresh fruit with the skin on as a snack

  • Use wholegrain pasta instead of plain pasta when cooking your favourite pasta dish

  • Bulk up stews by adding fresh vegetables, barley, lentils and chickpeas

  • Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables, rather than peeling them. Remember to wash them well first

  • Use brown rice rather than the more refined white rice. Most fibre is contained in the outer layers of grains; the refining process removes these layers. Seeds and nuts can be a good source of added fibre

  • Read food labels to help you select those products that are higher in fibre