THE SIMPLE SECRET
By Nutrition Team
Thursday, December 22, 2011.
We all want to live long healthy lives - healthy being the operative word. Who wants to live forever when you live it in pain? Well, we’re here to tell you that the power is in your hands. That power is your diet... and fibre.
Don’t fear the bloating and gas that may result from a diet high in fibre. The benefits are too important.
When eaten regularly as a part of a balanced diet, fibre has been shown to have some amazing health benefits. The problem is that most people don't get enough. The typical intake of fibre in the UK is about 14 grams per person daily, according to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). The UK Department of Health recommend a minimum of 18 grams of fibre a day for most people.
Found only in plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, fibre is composed of complex carbohydrates. Some fibres are soluble in water and others are insoluble. Most plant foods contain some of each kind. Here are some possible health benefits:
Digestive disorders - Because insoluble fibre aids digestion and adds bulk to stool, it speeds up passage of faecal material through the gut, thus helping prevent or alleviate constipation.
Fibre also may help reduce the risk of diverticulitis, a condition in which small pouches form in the colon wall (usually from the pressure of straining during bowel movements). People who already have diverticulitis often find that increased fibre consumption can alleviate symptoms, which include constipation and/or diarrhoea, abdominal pain, flatulence and mucus or blood in the stool.
Cancer - A study carried out by the EPIC examined the association between dietary fibre intake and incidence of colorectal cancer in 519978 individuals, recruited from ten European countries. It was found that in populations with low average intake of dietary fibre, an approximate doubling of total fibre intake from foods could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 40%.
Scientists theorise that insoluble fibre adds bulk to stool, which in turn dilutes carcinogens and speeds their transit out of the body.
Diabetes - As with cholesterol, soluble fibre traps carbohydrates to slow their digestion and absorption. This may help prevent blood sugar level swings.
Also, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that a high-sugar, low-fibre diet more than doubles a woman's risk of Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes. In the study, cereal fibre was associated with a 28 percent decreased risk. In comparison, cola beverages, white bread, white rice and chips increased the risk.
Heart disease - As soluble fibre passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it binds to dietary cholesterol, helping the body to eliminate it. This reduces blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, reduces cholesterol deposits on arterial walls that eventually choke off the vessel.
There also is some evidence that soluble fibre can slow the liver's manufacture of cholesterol, and alter low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles to make them larger and less dense. Recent findings from two long-term studies of men suggest that high fibre intake can significantly lower the risk of heart attack.
Men who ate the most fibre-rich foods (35 grams a day, on average) suffered one-third fewer heart attacks than those who had the lowest fibre intake (15 grams a day), according to a Finnish study of 21,903 male smokers aged 50 to 69.
Obesity - Because insoluble fibre is indigestible and passes through the body virtually intact, it provides few calories. And since the digestive tract can handle only so much bulk at a time, fibre-rich foods are more filling than other foods. Hence, you’ll most likely eat less. Insoluble fibre also may hamper the absorption of calorie-dense dietary fat.
Here are a few quick tips to get your daily fibre:
• Start the day with a whole-grain cereal that has at least five grams of fibre per serving. Top with bran, linseed, raisins, bananas or berries, all of which are good sources of fibre.
• When possible, eat vegetables raw. Cooking vegetables may reduce fibre content by breaking down some fibre into its carbohydrate components. When you decide to cook them, microwave or steam until they are tender, but still firm.
• Avoid peeling fruits and vegetables, which strips them of some fibre.
• Eat unprocessed grains: whole-wheat products such as bulgur, couscous, and wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta.
• Add beans to soups, stews and salads; a couple times a week, substitute legume-based dishes (such as lentil soup, bean burritos, or rice and beans) for those made with meat.
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