When it comes to eating healthy and enjoying a healthier lifestyle, it is hard to overstate the importance of fibre in the diet. Even though fibre is most associated with grains, rice and breads, it is important to remember that fruits and vegetables also contain significant amounts of dietary fibre. In fact, the need for fibre is just one more reason to eat your fruits and vegetables every day.
In order to understand why dietary fiber is so important, it is a good idea to know what fibre is and what role it plays in digestion. Simply put, dietary fibre is the portion of food that the human body cannot digest. Fibre is found in foods of plant origin only; there is no fibre in meat and dairy products. Fibre plays an important role in the digestion of food, and in the elimination of waste products as they travel through the body.
Good sources of dietary fibre include grains, cereals, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. As we said before, meats and dairy products do not contain any dietary fibre, so it is important to eat some plant based foods ever day to get the fibre you need.
Not all fibre is the same, and fibre comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble. All plant materials contain both types of fibre, but some sources contain more of one than the other. Eating a variety of foods rich in fibre every day will ensure you get adequate levels of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Insoluble fibre is important in keeping people regular, and it has shown promise as well in the prevention of some types of colon and rectal cancers. Insoluble fibre is mainly found in wheat brain, some types of vegetables and in whole grain products. Some vegetables rich in insoluble fibre include carrots, peas and broccoli. The skins of fruits are also rich in insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre, on the other hand, has shown promise in reducing levels of cholesterol in the blood, and at reducing the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. Soluble fibre is abundant in dried peas, lentils, beans, barley, oat bran, and in many fruits and vegetables.
Many people are unsure just how much dietary fibre they need every day, but most dietitians recommend that women consume between 21 and 25 grams of dietary fibre per day. For men, the recommendation is 30 to 38 grams of fibre each day. Though this is still on the low side according to many experts.
Of course, that is easier said that done, and it is important to know which foods are high in fibre in order to boost your daily fibre consumption. In the case of packaged foods like breads and crackers, the fibre content will be listed as part of the nutritional label. In the case of fruits and vegetables, there are charts which show the fibre content of an average size piece. Some supermarkets and shops may post this information, and it is also widely available on the internet.
When increasing dietary fibre, it is best to make the increase gradual. A sudden jump in dietary fibre can lead to bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. In addition, it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, in order for fibre to have the best effect. When choosing breads and cereals, it is best to go with healthier whole grains. In general, the less processing, the healthier the foods.
Eating the skins of fruits and vegetables is a great way to increase dietary fibre. Many people like to make fruit shakes and smoothies that use the skins of their favorite fruits. This makes a delicious and nutritious way to increase fiber consumption. In addition, keeping a variety of fiber rich foods, such as apples, nuts, seeds and bran muffins, around for snacks is a great idea. You can find an easy to follow site with recipes at www.incrediblesmoothies.com
And finally, eating a wide variety of foods will ensure that you get plenty of fibre, as well as the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that make a balanced diet so important. My book The Nutrition Diet and Recipe book also advocates more fruit and vegetables in your diet and the book is available for free download at www.obooko.com (under heading Health and Self Improvement).