You’ve probably heard the term dietary fibre’ before and wondered what it means. 

Dietary fibres are essential for health because they help to improve bowel movement. They also reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.

They are a group of complex carbohydrates not broken down by digestive enzymes in the small intestines but pass through to the large intestine.

Fibres are found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Here are seven reasons why we should all be eating more dietary fibre

What are dietary fibres

Fibres are a type of carbohydrate that is not digested in the small intestine.

They are classified into two groups: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fibres are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and oats, while insoluble fibre includes lignin and cellulose.

Insoluble fibre does not blend with the water in your gut but passes through primarily intact. It functions as a “bulking agent” to help speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut.

Soluble fibre mixes with water in your gut, forming a gel-like substance that slows digestion.

1. Helps with weight loss and maintenance

Fibre has many health benefits, making it essential to your everyday diet.

It helps your body with digestion and can leave you feeling fuller on less food, which means you’re less likely to overeat.

Increasing your fibre intake could help you lose weight — a 2-to-5-per cent increase in fibre intake will lower the risk of obesity by 10 to 40 per cent.

That’s because fibre promotes slimmer waistlines, making you feel fuller and staving off hunger for longer. So whether it’s in vegetables or cereal grains, try to get 25 to 30 grams of fibre daily to reap these benefits.

2. Dietary fibres assist in blood sugar control

Dietary fibre is an essential source of carbohydrates, but unlike most other sources, it does not raise blood glucose levels.

Instead, fibre helps slow down sugar absorption and makes you feel fuller for longer.

Fibres also help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which your stomach empties after eating.

This prevents sharp spikes in blood sugar levels from occurring when you eat foods with a high glycaemic index (GI), such as white bread or processed breakfast cereals.

In addition to reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, dietary fibre may improve overall insulin sensitivity.

3. Reduce the risk of cancers in the colon and rectum

Fibre is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. It helps to keep stools soft and pass easily through your digestive system.

Many studies have shown a link between a high intake of fibre-rich foods and reduced risks of colorectal cancers.

Although scientists do not know why this may be true, many theories exist.

For example, fibre may help keep the colon wall healthy or slow down glucose absorption into the bloodstream; both could contribute to reducing cancer risk.

4. Lowers cholesterol levels by reducing absorption

The body produces cholesterol independently but absorbs it from food sources such as animal products.

One of the best ways to reduce cholesterol levels is by lowering your fat intake and increasing the fibre in your diet.

Dietary fibres (roughage) come from plant foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The soluble fibres lower cholesterol levels by reducing absorption.

If you have higher cholesterol levels in your blood, increase the consumption of dietary fibres.

5. Dietary fibres promote friendly bacteria in the gut

The gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in your large intestine, small intestine and gastrointestinal tract.

Most (about 90%) of gut flora live in the large intestine, where there is plenty of food to feed on, such as dietary fibre, resistant starch and oligosaccharides.

The normal gut microbiota consists of hundreds to thousands of different species of bacteria, fungi and archaea. These beneficial organisms are crucial for many aspects of your health.

Fibres in your diet pass through your small intestine untouched because they cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes made by human cells.

As a result, these fibres reach the intact large intestine, providing an energy source for good bacteria living there and promoting their growth.

6. Dietary fibres alleviate constipation

Fibre helps to alleviate constipation by adding bulk to the stool and increasing passage through the gut.

Insoluble fibre helps make stools soft and bulky, making them easier to pass through your digestive system.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water, which helps make stools soft and bulky, speeding up bowel movements.

7. Dietary fibres are a way to detox naturally

Dietary fibres are a way to detox naturally. This is because the body does not digest them but helps cleanse the digestive tract.

A healthy diet should contain plenty of fibre, which will help keep you regular and prevent constipation.

Foods rich in dietary fibres

Good sources of insoluble fibre include wholewheat pasta, brown rice, wholewheat bread and cereals, nuts and seeds, dried beans, lentils and soybeans.

Soluble fibres are rich in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium, and flaxseeds.

Fruits like apples and pears have higher pectin content, a soluble fibre.

The Bottom Line

Dietary fibres are a great way to detox your body and help improve your health.

They also help control weight, lower cholesterol levels, relieve constipation, promote friendly gut bacteria and reduce the risk of cancer in your colon and rectum.

The 7 Exceptional Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre