We hear so much about the value of fibre foods in our diets. Well, It is true that fibre-rich foods are important to good health. Without fibre, our digestive and elimination processes would be adversely affected.
Studies have shown that fibre foods play a role in maintaining bowel health, and more recent research has identified fibre’s ability to absorb undesirable chemicals and fats while assisting the maintenance of beneficial bacteria in the bowel.
Defined simply, fibres are the indigestible cellular “roughage” of edible plants, the touch cell walls that make up the outermost layer of plant structure. Because fibres absorb water, digested fats and other materials from the intestinal tract, fibres are said to act as “bulking agents” which carry these materials out of the body for elimination. Bowel wall muscle tone is benefited by good bulking agent activity. Fibres act like an internal “broom”, as it were, carrying away waste matter efficiently.
Not all fibres are created equal, one might say, with regards to their ability to absorb water and fats, their gut transit time or even compatibility with one’s physical tolerance. Some unique properties and benefits are specific to different types of fibre foods depending on their vegetable source.
The most common fibre source foods are the brans which make up the outer layers of all wholegrain cereals.
Oat, barley, rice and wheat brans are the most familiar examples. All provide “roughage” or the beneficial bulking agents which exercise the muscles of the bowel walls and increase gut transit time for digested foods.
It is recommended by dieticians that one have a variety of these brans in the diet rather than depend on but one or two. Wheat bran, for example, can be very irritating to someone with diverticular condition or irritable bowel syndrome in babies.
More unfamiliar fibre sources are linseed, psyllium hulls, guar gum, agar agar, glucomannan and pectin. All the above are softgel forming mucilaginous fibres that are particular soothing to tender bowel conditions. Pectin and agar agar have been shown to have the ability to absorb heavy metal toxins from the bowel and pectin shares with oat, barley and rice bran the benefit of absorbing excess fats from the bowel’s waste matter. Linseed fibre has the added benefit of containing rich nutritive vegetable oils high in Linoleic acid which promote health.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate fibre foods in the diet.
Firstly, eat wholegrain cereals (with the bran intact) whenever possible or add the different “brans” of oat, barley, rice or wheat to other low fibre foods.
For instance, vegetable or meat patties or loaves can be enriched with bran which helps hold the loaf or patty together while cooking and provides fibre as a bonus. Fibre foods such as oat or rice bran can be sprinkled over fresh or stewed fruit and can be blended nicely with fruit or vegetable juices.
Try adding 2 teaspoons of natural bran (your choice) to 270 ml of fresh tomato, orange or pineapple juice then add a tablespoon of fresh yogurt and whiz for a few seconds in the blender (or shake in a covered jar). Delicious and refreshing, and fibre-filled! Pectin, psyllium hulls, guar gum, agar agar and glucomannan are best used with liquids as a fibre addition to the diet.
These fibres especially need fluids to work well and are easily blended into fruit or vegetable drinks. While considering high fibre foods to add to your meals, don’t overlook the value in legumes which when properly cooked, or in some cases sprouted, are wonderful protein rich fibre sources and delicious too!
Fabulous fibre is the fit food for everyone!