April 23, 2019 4:44 pm Leave your thoughts
We’ve spent this month looking at Nature’s Medicine Chest – at the natural healing and preventative properties of the plants, leaves, roots and shoots all around us. It’s not always necessary to visit a doctor or pharmacist to stay in tip-top health: sometimes, nature itself has the answer!
Nowhere is that more true, it seems, than with regard to fibre. We all know we need plenty of fibre – and we know it’s really good for us. But do we know exactly how it helps our bodies? What’s its relationship to our bowels, our cholesterol, and our heart health? And which foodstuffs contain it in the highest quantities?
What is fibre?
Fibre is a specific type of carbohydrate (sometimes called ‘roughage’ or ‘bulk’). There are two types of it – soluble and insoluble, and a great, detailed explanation of the distinction between the two here from Wikipedia (for those who find the whole issue fairly insoluble!). Fibre is the part of food that our bodies don’t break down during digestion. It can’t be digested – but it isn’t just waste. It plays a particularly important role in our health.
Unless you’re following a very precise diet, or conducting a specific nutritional experiment, it doesn’t much matter whether you’re eating soluble or insoluble fibre. Fibre-rich foods tend to contain both sorts, and their interaction is a complex matter. For the purposes of this blog, we’re happy simply talking about ‘fibre’. In fact, some would say that Naturally Good Food is never happier than when talking about fibre….and they’d be right! We’re fairly obsessed by it. That’s because there are few things better for us in the world of food and health than fibre. Let’s take a look at just what it does in our bodies.
Fibre is vital for the digestive system and the bowels
Fibre keeps our digestive tract working smoothly. The fibre we take in, undigested, passes into our intestines and absorbs water. There it creates bulk, prompting our muscles to push it, and other waste, out of the body. Eating plenty of fibre thus prevents constipation. But it does more than that: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition has found that a high-fibre diet, particularly one derived from cereals and wholegrains, reduces the risk of developing bowel polyps (the precursor to bowel cancer) and this type of cancer itself.
Fibre lowers cholesterol
It’s known that a diet high in fibre reduces cholesterol levels. It’s believed that this occurs because fibre binds with cholesterol particles in our digestive systems and moves them out of our bodies before they’re absorbed. Fibre reduces the levels both of ‘bad’ LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and of overall cholesterol in our bodies. That’s good news for those of us needing to bring down our risk of strokes.
Fibre is good for maintaining a healthy weight
Fibre gives us bulk, which produces a feeling of fullness. It staves off hunger pangs, helping us to properly regulate our diet. A healthy weight lowers risk factors for diabetes, stroke, cancers and heart disease.
Fibre lowers blood pressure
Researchers at the Tulane University School of Medicine recently carried out a comprehensive analysis of data on fibre and health from 25 clinical trials, publishing their data in the Journal of Hypertension. They noted a strong link between increased fibre and healthy blood pressure: there was a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those with high blood pressure who ate more fibre, and a smaller drop in those with normal blood pressure. More research is underway to back up these findings and work out exactly how this happens. However it occurs, this property of fibre provides us with a great defence against strokes.
Fibre lowers blood sugar
Fibre is a carbohydrate, but it’s not digested as other carbohydrates are. Whereas other, refined carbohydrates cause a spike in blood sugar as they release their energy, fibre simply passes through intact, without producing this reaction. With blood sugar stabilised, fibre helps protect against the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
What’s the best source of fibre?
Nature is the best source of fibre – as harnessed by Naturally Good Food! It’s fresh fruit and vegetables, along with wholefoods, that you need to concentrate on, if you’re feeling a little short of fibre right now. We can’t help you with the fresh produce, but we can’t help helping you with the dried stuff. We’ve got an amazing array of wholefoods – just what you need for the best fibre-rich diet.
Wholefoods are the ‘whole’ of the food: all of the edible fibrous outer husk and bran is included. Perhaps the best-known fibrous wholefoods are pulses – beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. These are some of the very best additions you can make to a diet lacking in fibre. We have pulses of all kinds, dried and tinned, in bulk and in small packets. There’s a bean for everyone out there!
Moving along our Wholefoods shelves, you’ll find brown rice, wholewheat pasta and noodles, along with other grains, such as quinoa, barley, millet, buckwheat, couscous, rye and spelt. We stock wholemeal flour to make your own bread. If you’re following a gluten-free diet, you need to pay particular attention to the amount of fibre you consume. Many of our ready-made gluten-free products are enriched by high-fibre ingredients, such as psyllium husk.
We’ve also got a vast range of wholegrain cereals: everything from amaranth to wheatgerm, in natural form, or as grains, flakes or puffs. Oats too are great for fibre. We stock porridge oats and the thicker jumbo oats, as well as even more fibre-heavy oatmeal and oat groats.
Don’t forget nuts! Our nut department includes almonds, brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, peanuts and pistachios. We also have a fantastic range of fibre-rich seeds, ideal for snacks or for sprinkling on some of the wholegrain cereal mentioned above.
Wherever you’re shopping, do beware of pre-prepared food that’s had the skin, bran or seeds removed. For a diet genuinely rich in fibre, you need to eat real, fresh and proper food whenever you can.
Why not just take a supplement or tablet?
Those having real difficulty obtaining enough fibre should of course follow medical advice and take whatever supplements or medication is recommended. But for everyone else, there’s really no reason why your body’s fibre needs shouldn’t be supplied purely by diet. It’s the very best way of keeping yourself healthy, from your heart, right down to your bowels. If it’s fibre you’re after, Nature’s Medicine Chest really is the best option here. Follow Naturally Good Food today and set your own fibre-rich diet in motion!almonds, alternative medicine, amaranth, barley, beans, brazils, brown rice, buckwheat, cashews, cereals, chickpeas, couscous, currants, dates, dried peas, fibre, figs, flakes, Gluten free, grains, hazelnuts, jumbo oats, lentils, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, low cholesterol, macadamia nuts, millet, natural medicine, Nature's First Aid Kit, Nature's Medicine Chest, Nuts, oat groats, oatmeal, oats, organic apricots, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, porridge oats, prunes, psyllium husk, puffs, Pulses, quinoa, raisins, rye, Seeds, spelt, sultanas, walnuts, wheatgerm, Wholefoods, wholegrain cereals, wholegrains, wholemeal flour, wholewheat noodles, wholewheat pasta
This post was written by Yzanne