Different types of dietary fibre

      Different Types of Dietary Fibre

      01 Feb 2020

      Different Types of Dietary Fibre

      This article explains what dietary fibre is, different types of fibre and ways to include more fibre in your daily diet.

      What is Fibre?

      Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods that is not digested. In the UK, it’s recommended that adults should eat around 30g of fibre daily. Here are some common foods and their fibre content (see Table 1).

      Table 1: Common Foods and Their Fibre Content
      . Food Fibre Content (g) .
        Medium banana 2g  
        Apple 2g  
        Small handful of walnuts (30g) 2g  
        Medium orange 3g  
        Raspberries (60g) 3g  
        Broccoli (80g) 3g  
        Medium carrot e 3g  
        Brown rice (180g) 3g  
        Linseeds or flax seeds (15g) 4g  
        Tahini (30g) 4g  
        Uncooked oats (50g) 5g  
        Chia seeds (2tbsp) 8g  

       

      Unlike other types of carbohydrates—such as starch and sugar, which are digested in the small intestine—fibre passes through to the large intestine, where it’s broken down by healthy gut bacteria. This process is known as fermentation.

      Fibre is classified according to many factors such as its ability to be broken down by health bacteria (fermentability), as well as its ability to thicken and dissolve in water. These last two properties are important for healthy digestion. They help fibre to absorb water in the intestine and add bulk to the stool, which makes it easier and more comfortable to pass.

      Eating enough dietary fibre can help you to stay regular, preventing constipation.

      Different Types of Dietary Fibre

      There are lots of forms of dietary fibre, each with different properties which affect our health (see Table 2).

      Table 2: Different Types of Dietary Fibre
      Type of Dietary Fibre Food Sources Key Properties
      Resistant Starch (RS)
      • Wholegrains
      • Green bananas
      • Cooked and cooled potato, pasta and rice
      • Chemically modified starch (sometimes added to manufactured foods which are high in energy/fat i.e., cakes and biscuits. Remember to limit portion sizes for these foods)
      • RS ‘resists’ normal digestion in the small intestine
      • It’s broken down in the large intestine, which helps to feed our healthy gut bacteria.
      Psyllium (Ispaghula Husk)
      • Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative which is recommended by NICE as a first-line treatment for constipation
      • It’s often taken in powder/husk form or as a tablet
      • Dissolves easily in water. This means it absorbs water in the intestine, bulking up the stools, helping make them easier to pass.
      Prebiotics Containing Foods
      • Oats
      • Wheat
      • Soybeans
      • Garlic, onion and leeks
      • Asparagus
      • Chicory
      • Jerusalem artichokes
      • Bananas
      • Food ingredients which help to maintain or restore healthy gut bacteria.
      Table 2: Different Types of Dietary Fibre
      Type of Dietary Fibre
      Resistant Starch (RS)
      Food Sources
      • Wholegrains
      • Green bananas
      • Cooked and cooled potato, pasta and rice
      • Chemically modified starch (sometimes added to manufactured foods which are high in energy/fat i.e., cakes and biscuits. Remember to limit portion sizes for these foods)
      Key Properties
      • RS ‘resists’ normal digestion in the small intestine
      • It’s broken down in the large intestine, which helps to feed our healthy gut bacteria.
      Type of Dietary Fibre
      Psyllium (Ispaghula Husk)
      Food Sources
      • Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative which is recommended by NICE as a first-line tratment for constipation
      • It's often taken in powder/husk form or as a tablet
      Key Properties
      • Dissolves easily in water. This means it absorbs water in the intestine, bulking up the stools, helping make them easier to pass
      Type of Dietary Fibre
      Prebiotics Containing Foods
      Food Sources
      • Oats
      • Wheat
      • Chickpeas
      • Soybeans
      • Garlic, onion and leeks
      • Asparagus
      • Chicory
      • Jerusalem artichokes
      • Bananas
      Key Properties
      • Food ingredients which help to maintain or restore healthy gut bacteria

      How to Include More Fibre in Your Daily Diet

      Many plant-based foods contain a mix of different types of fibres, each with their own unique health benefits. You can experience the full benefits of dietary fibre by eating a diverse, balanced diet which is high in fibre.

      Scientists have found that eating a high number of plant-based foods is associated with an increased diversity of ‘good’ gut bacteria, which is protective of overall health. For optimal gut health, they found that people should aim to eat at least 30 different types of plant foods each week.

      A high-fibre diet should include plenty of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses and nuts and seeds. Including several of these foods on your plate at each meal will help you to achieve the variety of dietary fibres needed for optimal health.

      If you don’t usually follow a high-fibre diet, increase your fibre intake slowly, alongside drinking lots of water and getting regular exercise to avoid constipation.

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