Dietary fibre is not a 'nutrient' but is an important component of our diets. Dietary fibre is the undigested remains of plant materials which passes through the body without being absorbed and this is why it is important. Because of its water retaining properties fibre helps food pass through the gut faster and therefore has a laxative effect.
Fibre is divided into 2 categories - soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre such as that found in pulses, beans, peas, lentils and oats, seems to be useful in helping control some types of diabetes. The soluble fibre dissolves in the gut, to form a viscous gel that slows down the release of some nutrients, particularly sugar, and glucose, into the blood stream. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease, by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre is present in fruit, vegetables, pulses, and foods containing oats, barley or rye.
Insoluble fibre, found in wheat bran and elsewhere, merely has a laxative effect on the body. It has a sponge-like effect, soaking up water and swelling in size. This produces a feeling of fullness and adds bulk to the gut contents, and reduces the risk of constipation. Primary sources of insoluble fibre are cereal and grain products such as bread, flour, breakfast cereals, and rice, and fibrous vegetables such as carrots and celery.
Fibre is found in all plant food but how much depends on whether it has been processed. Unpeeled fruit and vegetables and wholemeal or wholegrain cereals will provide the most. Brown rice can contain seven times more fibre than white rice. The balance of the various components of dietary fibre (cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin and lignin) varies between foods.
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Copyright 2005 Glyconutrients Reference - Last Updated May 2005
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