In my last article I explained exactly what fibre is and identified that there are two main types; Insoluble and Soluble. Insoluble fibre’s main function is to help the body move waste material from the digestive tract more quickly whereas soluble fibre’s main function is to help the body absorb nutrients from the food. In this article I will be discussing the benefits of fibre in greater detail.
1) WEIGHT LOSS:- Fibre contains no calories which means that fibre rich foods generally contain less calories than low fibre foods. Although the difference in calories is not huge, whole grain breads and pastas generally contain less calories than white breads and pastas. Fruits and vegetables are also relatively low in calories compared with other types of foods.
Fibre is also effective at satisfying your appetite with both types of fibre making you feel fuller for longer. Insoluble fibre absorbs water and expands in the digestive tract meaning that it swells and helps fill up your stomach. Soluble fibre also helps satisfy your appetite because it holds food in the digestive tract for longer.
The combination of being both filling and low in calories means that fibre is a fantastic weight loss food. By substituting white bread with whole grain bread, white pasta with whole grain pasta and eating fruit instead of processed snacks you can cut your daily caloric intake without feeling hungry or deprived.
INSOLUBLE FIBRE BENEFITS:
1) REDUCED CONSTIPATION:- Probably the most well publicised benefit of dietary fibre is that it promotes regular bowel movements and reduces constipation. When insoluble fibre reaches the digestive tract it absorbs water and expands, whilst continuing to move through the digestive system. As it travels through, insoluble fibre helps make waste materials soft, bulky and easier to move whilst also scraping the walls of the bowel (lower part of the digestive system) clean. Doing this makes waste materials easier to excrete, makes bowel movements more regular and therefore reduces constipation.
2) REDUCED BOWEL DISEASE:- Since insoluble fibre helps clear waste materials out of the bowel more quickly, it has also been linked with reduced bowel disease. This is because waste materials are not able to stay in the bowels for very long and so harmful toxins do not get the chance to accumulate. Specifically, consuming insoluble fibre has been associated with reduced occurrence of piles (swelling inside the anal canal), irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems.
SOLUBLE FIBRE BENEFITS:
1) GREATER ABSORPTION OF VITAMINS AND MINERALS:- As already discussed, soluble fibre holds food in the digestive tract for longer. This allows your body to fully absorb the nutrients from the food before it is fully excreted. Therefore, getting enough soluble fibre will ensure that you get the maximum benefits from the foods you consume.
2) BETTER BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL:- By holding food in your digestive tract for longer soluble fibre also slows down the digestion process. This means that food is converted into glucose/sugar and released into the blood at a slower, more controlled rate. This benefit is particularly important for people with diabetes where blood sugar control is a common problem.
3) REDUCED CANCER RISK:- A growing bank of evidence suggests that fibre (particularly soluble fibre) can help prevent a variety of cancers. In my article on the link between fitness and cancer I discussed how fibre can reduce your risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. In the majority of studies, fibre from fruit and vegetables (soluble fibre) was cited as the top source because of the additional antioxidants and vitamins they contain.
4) REDUCED HEART DISEASE:- Soluble fibre has been linked with reduced heart disease because of its cholesterol lowering effect. It does this by binding with the cholesterol in foods. This bind of soluble fibre and cholesterol is then excreted as a waste product during bowel movements, lowering overall cholesterol levels.
Fibre has long been touted as an excellent way to reduce constipation but the other benefits are often ignored. Making soluble and insoluble part of your diet can really help improve the health of your bowel and your heart whilst also helping you get the most nutritional benefit from the foods you eat. On top of this it can also help you manage diabetes and reduce your cancer risk. If you currently feel you are not getting enough fibre (18g per day is the recommendation) then what better reason to start? Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your health or prevent disease fibre can help.
What do you guys think? Are there any benefits of fibre that I have missed out of this article? Have you noticed any significant changes by introducing more fibre to your diet? Let me know your thoughts.