Nutrition 101: Dietary Fibre

Unlike other carbohydrates, fibre cannot be digested or broken down – so why is it so essential in our diets? 
 

The science of Fibre!
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre.

There are two types of fibre; soluble and insoluble. 

Soluble fibre can dissolve in water and helps to regulate blood cholesterol and glucose levels. As it dissolves, soluble fibre transforms into a gel-like substance that assists our digestion in many ways. Moreover, soluble fibre-rich foods are consumed by the healthy gut bacteria in our large intestine, aiding it in regulating our appetite and metabolism.

Overtime, soluble fibres can lower the amount of free cholesterol in the blood as it prevents some dietary cholesterol from being digested. It also slows down the rate of digestion of a variety of other nutrients including carbohydrates. In turn, there would be a lower chance of seeing a sharp spike in your blood sugar levels after a carb-heavy meal. Soluble fibre can be found in oat bran, nuts, barley, seeds, beans, peas and some fruits and vegetables, including apples, carrots, citrus fruits, and avocados.

On the other hand, unlike its soluble counterpart, insoluble fibre cannot dissolve in water and remains almost unchanged as it passes through the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre is best known for its role in preventing constipation and promoting bowel health and regularity. It attracts water into your stool which makes it softer and easier to pass, without exerting your bowel.

As insoluble fibre is indigestible, it can remain in the gastrointestinal tract and absorb fluids, as well as sticking to other waste products from digestion that are ready to be formed in the stool. Through the prevention of constipation and other blockages, the risk of developing diverticular disease, haemorrhoids and even colorectal cancer decreases significantly. Most insoluble fibres can be found in the skin of fruits and vegetables. Vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and cabbage, are just a few examples of where to obtain your daily fibre intake along with other vegetables with skins!         

                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The role fibre plays in our body.

One of the most important roles fibre plays is its ability to act as prebiotics­— substances in food that activate the growth or activity of bacteria, or microflora, that live inside the gut. Microflora are involved in many of our bodily functions, including immune function, inflammation, and colon health. Fibre, therefore, plays a fundamental role in maintaining a healthy body.

In general, consuming fibres can leave you feeling fuller for longer after meals since it slows down the digestion process of many foods. Simply increasing dietary fibre intake by two servings of whole-grain products daily might lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by an astounding 21%.  It has also been proven to prevent the risk of developing numerous medical conditions such as; heart disease and diabetes. A Harvard study found an impressive 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease in people with high total dietary fibre intake. Results from studies like these have prompted the Harvard School of Public Health to recommend a minimum intake of 20 to 30 grams of fibre a day for optimum health across the population. Alarmingly, the average Singaporean only consumes 13 grams of fibre a day.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate more fibres into your diets!

  • Drink more smoothies. Who doesn't love a chilled cup of smoothie in the Singaporean heat? Fibre is abundantly found in many fruits, vegetables, and legumes. There's no easier and tastier way to increase your fibre intake than to simply blend your favourite fruits and vegetables together for a fibre-packed cup of goodness. 
    • Pro tip #1: Banana works with almost any fruit combination! 
    • Pro tip #2: Add a protein base (like our WhatIF BamNut Shake) to get a nutritionally balanced snack out of your smoothie!
  • Have a glance at the nutritional panel on food products. Next time you are shopping, just have a quick look at these panels and compare the fibre contents between the product category options before making your decision to purchase.
  • Eat more greens. As a rule of thumb, foods that are green in colour are usually packed with fibre and other beneficial nutrients. Eating greens does not have to be a compromise either! It can be as simple as ordering a plate of saucy bok choy with your chicken rice. More texture, more sauce, more fibre! It's a win-win, really.
  • Don’t like sweets, nor greens? Try our WhatIF Foods’ Moringa and BamNut noodles. If downing vegetables or smoothies aren’t for you, opt for these savoury and satisfying noodles instead! Powered by Future Fit crops, such as Bambara groundnuts or Moringa leaves, WhatIF foods makes healthy instant noodles that will satiate your nutritional needs, including your daily fibre intake. 

References

Norris, T., 2021. Soluble Vs. Insoluble Fiber: What’S The Difference?. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/soluble-vs-insoluble-fiber#benefits> [Accessed 20 January 2021].

Papathanasopoulos, A. and Camilleri, M., 2010. Dietary Fiber Supplements: Effects in Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome and Relationship to Gastrointestinal Functions. Gastroenterology, 138(1), pp.65-72.e2. [Accessed 20 January 2021].

Pereira, M., O'Reilly, E., Augustsson, K., Fraser, G., Goldbourt, U., Heitmann, B., Hallmans, G., Knekt, P., Liu, S., Pietinen, P., Spiegelman, D., Stevens, J., Virtamo, J., Willett, W. and Ascherio, A., 2004. Dietary Fiber and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 164(4), p.370.

SingHealth. 2018. High Fibre Diet. [online] Available at: <https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/conditions-treatments/high-fibre-diet/overview#:~:text=An%20average%20Singaporean%20consumes%2013,is%2030%20grams%20per%20day.> [Accessed 14 January 2021].

The Nutrition Source. 2021. Fiber. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/#ref16> [Accessed 14 January 2021].

Valdes, A.M., Walter, J., Segal, E. and Spector, T.D. (2018). Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ, 361, p.k2179. [Accessed 20 January 2021].

Nutrition 101: Dietary Fibre