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Dietary Fibre And Your Body

Dietary fibre is the portion of food that cannot be digested by our bodies. Therefore, there is a misconception that dietary fibre is just food remains which provides no nutritional value. Actually, dietary fibre can be divided into two types: soluble and insoluble fibre. Both serve different functions in the body and can be obtained from different foods.

Health benefits of dietary fibre

Eating moderate amount of dietary fibre-rich foods helps prevent the development of many chronic diseases and improve body health.

  • Prevent and relieve constipation
    Dietary fibre increases faecal volume and stimulates peristalsis. It swells, absorbs water and lubricates the large intestine to soften faeces and make defecation easier.
  • Help maintain gut health
    Dietary fibre promotes the activity of intestinal bacteria to maintain gut health.
  • Prevent colon cancer
    Dietary fibre shortens the retention time of food residues in the intestine and so prevents the accumulation of carcinogens.
  • Help weight control and reduce the chance of obesity
    Eating dietary fibre-rich food requires relatively more time to chew. This can make people feel full easily, thus eating less food.
  • Help to stabilise blood glucose level and control diabetes
    Soluble dietary fibre can slow down the absorption of sugar.
  • Help lower blood cholesterol level and prevent heart disease
    Soluble dietary fibre combines with bile to enhance bile excretion and lower blood cholesterol level.

Foods rich in dietary fibre

Grains – wholemeal bread, red rice, oatmeal
Vegetables – Chinese kale, broccoli, spinach
Root vegetables – potato, sweet potato
Beans – chickpeas, red kidney bean, soya bean, red bean
Fungi – straw mushroom, shiitake, mushroom, cloud ear fungus
Fruits – orange, grapefruit, prune
Others– sesame, almond, cashew nut, peanut

Daily dietary fibre requirement

Adolescents and adults need not less than 25g of dietary fibre everyday while children need less. Add 5 to a child’s age to calculate the amount of dietary fibre needed per day ( Age + 5 = grams of dietary fibre required per day ).
For example, a 6-year-old child would need 6+5=11g of dietary fibre per day.

Reference: Centre for Health Protection (Dietary Fibre)

Essential facts

  • Obtain dietary fibre from food rather than supplements (e.g. fibre tablets, powders, etc.).
  • Eat different varieties of dietary fibre-rich food as dietary fibre obtained from different food serves different functions.
  • Increase the intake of dietary fibre progressively to avoid gastrointestinal symptoms caused by a sudden intake of a large amount of dietary fibre.
  • Eat unpeeled fruits and vegetables (e.g. unpeeled cucumber, plums, apple and grapes, etc.).
  • Since the dietary fibre content in fresh fruit is higher than juice, eating fresh fruit is better than drinking juice.
  • Dietary fibre absorbs water. It is suggested to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day to allow the dietary fibre function effectively.
  • Although dietary fibre is important to health, we should not neglect other food groups. A well balanced diet and regular exercise are of the utmost importance to good health.

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