Explained: Health Benefits Of Dietary Fibre
Dietary fibre is a non-digestible carbohydrate that originates from plant-based foods.
Many carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, while fibre is not. Instead, it passes through the body undigested.
Dietary fibre is essential for homeostasis within the gut. The predominant health benefits extend to enhanced metabolic welfare, including protection against obesity and related metabolic diseases.
Diets have changed radically over the past few decades, with people consuming more ultra-processed foods void of dietary fibre. This lack of focus on the foods we eat has led to deficiencies in dietary fibre.
Women's recommended daily fibre intake is 25 grams, while men should aim for 38 grams. Still, most Americans consume less than half of those recommended minimum levels, which is comparable worldwide.
Because fibre helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping keep hunger and blood sugar in check, and helping feed the good bacteria responsible for multiple health benefits, it is essential for optimal healthiness and longevity.
People with high intakes of dietary fibre appear to have an exceptionally lower risk for developing:
Coronary heart disease,
and certain gastrointestinal disorders.
We can get good sources of dietary fibre from the food we already eat, and we need to eat more of it.
The best sources of fibre are nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
And because high-fibre foods are filling, they may help maintain weight and even aid weight loss. They are also generally a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
There are two varieties of fibre:
Soluble Fibre that dissolves in water and can help lower glucose levels and blood cholesterol. Some foods with soluble fibre include oatmeal, nuts, beans, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, apples and strawberries.
Insoluble Fibre that does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting frequency and helping prevent constipation. Some foods with insoluble fibres include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, green beans, cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli and tomatoes.
Top Tips To Increase Fibre Intake:
Avoid drinking fruit juices; eat whole fruits instead.
Substitute white grain rice, bread, and pasta with brown and whole-grain alternatives.
For breakfast, swap ultra-processed cereals for natural foods like chia and almond pudding, eggs on whole-grain toast or oatmeal with fruit.
Snack on fresh and dried fruit and raw vegetables instead of chips or chocolate.
Explore vegetarian meals rich in beans or legumes once or twice per week.
When shopping, challenge yourself to avoid the inner isle; getting most of your produce from the outer shelves of the supermarket (fresh fruit and vegetables, and frozen fruit and vegetables and other good foods).
Sources & Further Reading
O'Grady J, O'Connor EM, Shanahan F. Review article: dietary fibre in the era of microbiome science. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019 Mar;49(5):506-515. doi: 10.1111/apt.15129. PMID: 30746776
Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.
Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients. 2020;12(10):3209. Published 2020 Oct 21. doi:10.3390/nu12103209
EB, Ascherio A, Giovannucci E, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Vegetable, fruit, and cereal fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. JAMA. 1996 Feb 14;275(6):447-51. doi: 10.1001/jama.1996.03530300031036. PMID: 8627965.
MA, O'Reilly E, Augustsson K, Fraser GE, Goldbourt U, Heitmann BL, Hallmans G, Knekt P, Liu S, Pietinen P, Spiegelman D, Stevens J, Virtamo J, Willett WC, Ascherio A. Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Feb 23;164(4):370-6. doi: 10.1001/archinte.164.4.370. PMID: 14980987.