Fibre refers to the indigestible parts of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. It’s a type of carbohydrate that the human body cannot break down into smaller molecules for absorption and energy production. Instead, it passes through the digestive system largely intact, aiding in various physiological processes.
There are two main types of dietary fiber:
Soluble Fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It can help lower blood cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, lentils, fruits (like apples and citrus fruits), and some vegetables (such as carrots).
Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to the stool, aiding in promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. It also provides a feeling of fullness after eating. Whole wheat products, bran, vegetables, and some fruits (like grapes and prunes) are sources of insoluble fiber.
Implications of Fiber on Health:
Digestive Health: Adequate fiber intake promotes healthy digestion by preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and can help prevent digestive disorders like diverticulitis.
Heart Health: Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol molecules and carrying them out of the body. This can contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Blood Sugar Regulation: Soluble fiber also slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
Weight Management: Foods rich in fiber tend to be more filling and can help control appetite and prevent overeating. This can aid in weight management and weight loss.
Colon Health: Fiber supports a healthy colon by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing the buildup of potentially harmful substances in the colon.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: A diet high in fiber is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer (such as colorectal cancer), and cardiovascular disease.
Gut Health: Certain types of fiber, known as prebiotics, serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which has implications for overall health.
Soluble Fiber Sources:
Oats: Oats are a great source of soluble fiber, especially beta-glucans, which can help lower cholesterol levels.
Beans and Lentils: These legumes are high in soluble fiber and provide a good amount of protein as well.
Apples: Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, and the skin is particularly rich in fiber.
Citrus Fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits are known for their soluble fiber content.
Berries: Berries like raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are not only a source of fiber but also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble Fiber Sources:
Whole Wheat: Whole wheat products like whole grain bread, pasta, and brown rice are high in insoluble fiber.
Bran: Wheat bran, oat bran, and rice bran are concentrated sources of insoluble fiber.
Vegetables: Many vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are good sources of insoluble fiber.
Root Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Corn: Corn and popcorn are examples of foods rich in insoluble fiber.
Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds provide a good amount of insoluble fiber.
Miscellaneous Fiber Sources:
Whole Grains: Quinoa, barley, bulgur, and farro are whole grains that contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Psyllium Husk: This is a type of soluble fiber often used as a dietary supplement to support digestive health.
Legume Pasta: Pasta made from chickpea flour, lentil flour, or black bean flour offers a higher fiber content compared to traditional pasta.
Remember that different foods contain varying amounts and types of fiber, so incorporating a variety of these fiber-rich foods into your diet can provide a broad range of health benefits.
It’s important to note that while fiber has many health benefits, it’s also essential to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients. Gradually increasing fiber intake if you’re not used to a high-fiber diet is recommended, as a sudden increase can lead to digestive discomfort. Drinking plenty of water is also important when consuming fiber, as it helps prevent digestive issues. The recommended daily intake of fiber varies based on factors such as age, gender, and activity level, but a general guideline is around 25-30 grams per day for adults.
Complementary Health Practitioner
Membership: Australian Natural Therapists Association Ltd (ANTA)
Qualification: Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS)
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