Fibre or Fiber – What are their health benefits?
Doctors, health experts and dieticians – all of them advise their clients and patients to give importance to a healthy diet, and they specifically say about fiber and their health benefits. When the body is deficient of fibers, it leads to many diseases and health issues including obesity. In this column I shall briefly explain some of the health benefits of fibres/fibers.
What is fibre/fiber in food content?
Fibre is a form of carbohydrate not absorbed by the body. Dietary fibre or simply edible fibre is found in vegetables, cereals, fruits etc. Fibers are made of cellulose, hemi cellulose and pectin. Based on their solubility, they are broadly classified into two. Soluble fibers dissolve in water, which can reduce bad cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Insoluble fibers never dissolve in water, yet they can block constipation.
As soluble fibers break the digestive process, our stomach fills easily. Indirectly it reduces obesity and related health issues. Those insoluble fibers directly reach large intestine and becomes a part of waste food. It also makes excretion process easy.
So both types of fibers are important and good to the body. For an adult person, average daily consumption of fibre is 20-35 grams.
How can fibers influence the health of children?
Fibers should form an integral part of kids’ diet plan. How much fibre does a kid needs? There is a simple technique. Add integer 5 or 10 to the age of your kid. For instance if her age is 10, 15-20 gms of fibers should be included in her daily diet. Kids need comparatively less amount of fiber in their diet, yet they can’t be excluded.
What are the advantages of intake of fiber rich food?
1. Cholesterol – It reduces the level of bad cholesterol in human blood. Fibers that dissolve in water have the special power to reduce bad cholesterol.
2. To reduce body weight – Fibers which dissolve in water breaks the digestion process, giving an illusion of filled stomach. When calorie input reduces and water in intestine retains you as energetic for some time, body weight reduces.
3. Reduces chances for cancer – To reduce the chances of intestinal and colon cancer, you can take more fibre rich food.
4. Digestive health – It balances digestion and excretion process. It also reduces conditions such as diarrhoea and constipation. It also reduces the chances of conditions such as kidney stones, diverticulitis, haemorrhoids etc.
5. Healthy skin – When yeast and fungus are flushed out through skin, they form pimples. Intake of fibers, especially the plant seed Psyllium husk can help you to flush out body toxins and improve skin health.
6. Healthy heart – As studies suggest, more you add fibres to your daily diet, chances of heart attack reduces that much.
Which food items are abundant in fibres?
Fruits – Pears, strawberry, apple, banana, raspberry, sweet potato, pomegranate, guava, grapes and mangoes.
Vegetables – Carrot, beetroot, broccoli, tomato, dark green leafy vegetables like palak, methi, green spinach etc, cabbage and cauliflower.
Pulses – Different types of peas like chickpeas, pigeon pea, green gram, horse gram, soya beans etc.
Other food items – Gooseberry, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, pepper, oats etc
Always remember, in the case of cereals, fibers are contained in abundance in bran – For instance, wheat, rice, maize etc. When you remove the bran from these food products (same as the case of processed flours, cereals etc), fiber content will also be removed. That’s why dieticians and doctors suggest you to use whole wheat and other grains.
How can we improve the intake of fibre?
1. When you make a juice from fruits of your choice, you are destroying fibers along with it. It’s always good to eat fruits as whole rather than making juices, if you are an adult.
2. Substitute maida (all-purpose flour) dishes, bread, pasta etc with whole grains of rice, wheat etc.
3. Substitute chips and chocolate bars with unprocessed vegetable/fruit salads. You can take such salads in regular breaks to block your food carvings. You can make salads using fresh carrot, beetroot, broccoli, salad cucumber, onions, tomatoes, cabbage etc.
4. For your daily lunch prefer brown rice over white rice.
Some precautions while adding more fibers to your diet
Never increase fibre content in your food all of a sudden. Instead slowly increase fiber intake. After some weeks, you can stabilize fiber intake. If you take fiber in excess, it can lead to constipation. So always ensure to drink sufficient water while adding more fibres to your diet. Kids should drink plenty of water. It improves the movement of fibres through intestine.
Disclaimer: When you alter your daily diet to a fiber-rich diet, please consult your doctor or dietician prior to it. Your diet may change according to your age and health conditions. This article should be used for reference purpose only. As I am not a physician or diet expert, I am suggesting you the same.
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