The term ‘dietary fibre’ refers to the indigestible carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts. Dietary fibre in not sound in meat and dairy products. Functional fibre consists of non-digestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects. The term ‘total fibre’ refers to dietary and functional fibre.
Insoluble and soluble fibre
Fibre can be split into two groups:
- Insoluble fibre, and
- Soluble fibre.
Both forms of fibre are not absorbed into the bloodstream and so are excreted from the body. The body needs both of these sources to ensure optimum health.
What is insoluble fibre?
Insoluble fibre has the following characteristics:
- It is not soluble in water.
- It helps to move bulk through the digestive system.
- Insoluble fibre helps the intestines to balance PH levels.
- Insoluble fibre helps to promote regular bowel movements.
This type of fibre is found in wholewheat and grain bread, whole bran cereal, flaxseed, as well as the skins of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients. Many are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and potassium. They are also low in fat and sodium.
The Food Pyramid suggests between three and five servings of vegetables each day. One serving of vegetables can be:
- One cup of raw leafy vegetables
- Half a cup of other cooked or raw vegetables
- Three quarters of a cup of vegetable juice
In addition, the Food Pyramid suggests two to four servings of fruit each day. One serving of fruit can be:
- One medium apple, orange or banana
- Half a cup of chopped cooked or canned fruit
- Three quarters of a cup of fruit juice
Remember that you can only count 100% fruit juice as a fruit. You need to limit juice consumption. Most commercially-bottle juices come in containers that hold more than two servings of fruit that can add a lot of sugar and calories to your daily diet.
What is soluble fibre?
Soluble fibre has the following characteristics:
- It can be dissolved in water.
- Soluble fibre forms a gel-like substance when it’s mixed with liquid.
- It binds fatty acids.
- Soluble fibre prolongs stomach emptying so that sugar is absorbed and released slowly.
- It helps to lower cholesterol levels.
- Soluble fibre helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
This type of fibre is found in oats, apples, pears, peas and barley.
What is the Glycaemic Index?
One of the benefits of soluble fibre is that it slows down the absorption rate of sugar. The result of this is that you feel fuller for longer and this prevents you from snacking in order so that you can top up your energy levels.
Soluble fibre foods are usually those which are complex carbohydrates. These types of foods are high in sugars but take a long time to absorb and digest. This means that they keep the blood sugar level and insulin stable. This enhances glycogen synthesis activity and increases glycogen storage. Complex carbohydrates contain polysaccharides which are composed of many glucose units They are often referred to as starches which are found in vegetables, fruit and grains.
A good way to determine whether or not you’re choosing the right type of carbohydrate for your body is to look at the glycaemic index: the higher the food is on this index, the worse it is for you. Conversely, the lower the score the food has on the GI Index, the better it is for you.
Choosing the right food for you doesn’t have to be a challenge. All you need to know are good nutritional principles and, if you stick to them, you’ll be on the road to good health! Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Specialised Nutrition Course is the perfect way for you to learn about these good food habits. For more information, visit our website.