At some point in your life, you’d probably have googled some variant of “How to eat healthier”, and one of the common advice you’d have gotten is “Have a balanced diet by eating more fibre”. But what exactly is a balanced diet, and what’s the role of fibre (specifically dietary fibre) in keeping you healthy? Fibre is essential in our daily diets— the Singapore Health Promotion Board recommends a daily fibre intake of 20g for women and 26g for men. The recommended two servings of fruits and vegetables a day actually doesn’t quite cover the amount of fibre adults require in a day! Studies show that people often do not consume enough fibre daily and they struggle to do so, perhaps due to eating preferences, habits and inaccessibility to food that are high in fibre. The good news is, there are plenty of foods out there that are packed with fibre, and eating different types of food in moderation, for instance, cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables can help you to add fibre to your daily diet to keep yourself healthy. There has also been an increasing demand for fibre-fortified food and beverage products in the market because of the multi-functional health benefits of dietary fibres, so it’s great if you’re trying to eat healthier.
What is dietary fibre (fibre)?
Dietary fibre comes from plants and is a type of carbohydrate that is indigestible. Unlike other types of carbohydrates that get broken down into sugar molecules, fibre cannot be broken down but passes through our bodies undigested. There are two types of fibre— insoluble and soluble, and both types are important for optimal health. There are many benefits to dietary fibre which is why consuming an adequate amount of fibre is so important to your health and wellbeing.
What are the health benefits of dietary fibre (fibre)?
Apart from helping you to improve your gut health by increasing your bowel movement, fibre can also help you to reduce your risk of several other chronic diseases. Having an adequate amount of fibre in your diet can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity just to name a few benefits. Other health-boosting properties of fibre include strengthening your immune system and nutrient absorption.
1. Control blood sugar level to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Soluble fibre is beneficial for people with diabetes as it helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream after meals and this prevents blood sugar spikes. This is because fibre helps to regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping you to achieve more consistent blood sugar levels. Having high blood sugar levels constantly is a risk factor of type 2 diabetes, especially if one’s body is unable to get rid of the sugar in the bloodstream fast enough. Fibre can help to prevent diabetes in those who are healthy, and for people with diabetes, better manage their condition.
2. Helps in weight management
If you’re trying to watch your weight, then consuming enough fibre should be your priority. Soluble and insoluble fibre can help you to manage your weight as the bulk from the fibres allows you to stay full longer and prevents you from overeating. This means that you’re more likely to feel full and more satisfied for a longer period of time after a meal, which might help you to cut back on all that snacking. High-fibre foods generally also contain fewer calories for the same amount of food as compared to those that are low in fibre. Consuming the recommended amount of fibre each day can thus help you to achieve a healthier weight and overcome obesity.
3. Prevent constipation and improve gut health
Suffering from constipation is a painful experience. Luckily, fibre will help you to bring you some relief. In particular, a type of soluble fibre called Inulin might help you to soften your stool and loosen the bowel to promote regular bowel movement to maintain a healthier bowel function. Experts say that the fibre in wheat bran and oat bran might be more effective than the fibre from fruits and vegetables when it comes to relieving constipation. Dietary fibre also helps you to maintain a stronger intestinal barrier which helps to improve gut health.
4. Strengthen heart health to lower the risk of heart disease
Studies have shown that consuming enough dietary fibre every day might help to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing your cholesterol levels. Fibre can help to lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and this helps to prevent the odds of getting heart disease.
There are other multi-functional benefits of dietary fibre including enhancing bone health, cognitive health and overall immunity.
How can you get enough fibre in your diet?
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of dietary fibre, the next step is to ensure that you have enough of it in your daily diet. You can easily add fibre to your diet by eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, leafy vegetables, whole grains (bran), legumes (beans) and nuts. Note that you should be eating fruits with their peels/skin on to ensure you get high amounts of fibre.
Here are some examples of foods with high fibre content:
- Baked beans, 2 tsp: 4.0g of fibre
- Red kidney beans, 1 tsp: 7.5g of fibre
- Orange, 1 small: 3.0g of fibre
- Guava, 1 medium: 4.0g of fibre
- Broccoli, 1 cup: 3.0g of fibre
- Spinach, 1 cup: 6.0g of fibre
- Wholemeal bread, 2 slices: 5.0g of fibre
While having a high-fibre diet is beneficial, experts recommend increasing your fibre intake gradually especially if you haven’t been consuming enough fibre before. Consuming too much fibre all of a sudden might aggravate your digestive tract, which might cause you to bloat, become gassy, and even constipated as fibre might act as a bulking agent. Moreover, you should drink more liquids as you increase your fibre intake since fibre absorbs water.
One way to increase overall amounts of fibre in your diet without changing the taste or texture of your carb-based food is to add Alchemy Fibre. White rice cooked with Alchemy Fibre (100g) has a higher dietary fibre content than jasmine brown rice. Rice cooked with Alchemy Fibre also has a lower calorie content as compared to plain white or brown rice.
How can Alchemy Fibre help?
Alchemy Fibre can help to make the carbs (such as white rice) that you eat healthier. Alchemy Fibre for Rice is a soluble powder that dissolves to form a protective layer around the rice endosperm in your gut. It hence slows down the digestion rate of white rice to that of brown rice, which means a slower glucose release. White rice cooked with Alchemy Fibre also contains up to 3x more dietary fibre than brown rice. Better yet, the white rice retains its taste and fluffy texture that most of us are familiar with.
Alchemy Fibre is also a great way to get young children to consume more fibre, especially since children usually dislike eating whole grain foods and vegetables. Adding in Alchemy Fibre into rice or even beverages such as Milo and juice can help your child to consume more fibre. However, encouraging your child to eat fruits and vegetables is still important in ensuring that they have enough fibre in their diet.