A foods’ crops and energy expert, Mr. Douglas Akuba, has told Nigerians that everyone’s dietary needs are different, thus, may need to be tailored to fit their needs and health risks.
Speaking during an interview over the weekend in Abuja, Akuba referred to fibre as a carbohydrate that provides certain health benefits to the body but does not provide many calories.
“However, whole food sources of dietary fibre are an important component of a healthy diet and can be beneficial in disease prevention.
“Fibre occurs naturally in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. There are different types of fibre, including soluble and insoluble, which provide specific health benefits,” he explained.
According to him, dietary fibre – the indigestible part of plant material – is made up of two main types. While soluble fibre easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the part of the gut known as the colon, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.
“Unlike simple carbohydrates, including most pieces of bread and sugars, fibre is a complex carbohydrate and does not raise blood sugar levels,” he explained.
The expert said that fibre is commonly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
“Also, sometimes, it is called ‘roughage’ or ‘bulk’. It is an essential nutrient. This means it must be included in the diet,” he advised.
He said the health benefits of dietary fibre are plentiful. He went ahead to list the reduction of fat absorption and managing weight gain.
“As a thick, spread-out gel, soluble fibre blocks fats that would otherwise be digested and absorbed.
“Lowering cholesterol. Soluble fibre prevents some dietary cholesterol from being broken down and digested. Over time, soluble fibre can help lower cholesterol levels or the amount of free cholesterol in the blood,” he said.
Akuba said just as it stabilises blood sugar (glucose) levels, soluble fibre can prevent fats from being absorbed and slow down the digestion rate of other nutrients, including carbohydrates.
“This means [that] meals containing soluble fibre are less likely to cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels and may prevent them.
“Reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. By lowering cholesterol levels, stabilising blood sugars and decreasing fat absorption, eating soluble fibre regularly may reduce the risk of heart disease and circulatory conditions.
“Feeding healthy gut bacteria. Some soluble fibre-rich foods feed gut bacteria, as it is fermentable in the colon and, so, helps the bacteria thrive longer,” he explained.
He said that insoluble fibre prevents constipation, as an indigestible material, while insoluble fibre sits in the gastrointestinal tract, absorbing fluid and sticking to other by-products of digestion ready to be formed into stool.
“Its presence speeds up the movement and processing of waste, helping prevent gastro-intestinal blockage and constipation or reduced bowel movements.
“Lowering the risk of diverticular disease by preventing constipation and intestinal blockages, insoluble fibre helps reduce the risk of developing small folds and haemorrhoids in the colon.
“It may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer,” he explained.
According to him, soluble and insoluble fibre make people feel satiated or full longer after meals. Soluble fibre slows down how quickly foods are digested, meaning most people feel full longer after fibre-rich meals.
He said that insoluble fibre physically fills up space in the stomach and intestines, furthering the sensation of being full.
“These properties can help people manage their weight and lower disease risk. Due to fibre’s many health benefits, a high-fibre diet is associated with a lower risk of diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and others,” he said.