What are the health benefits of the different types of fibre, and where do we get them from?
DIETARY FIBRE IS FOUND in plant foods such as cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. Until recently, it was thought to be completely indigestible, but we now know that some fibre can be broken down in the large intestine by gut bacteria. For the best health benefits, eat a variety of fibre-rich foods each day. There are two main types of fibre:
This is found in good amounts in fruit, veg, oats, barley and pulses such as beans, lentils and peas. It forms a gel in the intestine that’s thought to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose.
This means it helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, preventing dips that can leave you reaching for sugary snacks. A certain type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, found in good amounts in oats, binds with cholesterol and prevents it being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, lowering the risk of heart disease.
This tends to be found in larger amounts in cereal grains. Wholemeal flour and bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta are all good sources. This type of fibre is vital for a healthy digestive system – it’s been linked to helping to prevent bowel complaints, from constipation to cancer – as it assists the smooth passage of food through the body.
Soluble fibre helps keep blood sugar levels steady and insoluble fibre is vital for healthy digestion