Diet & Nutrition
   
 

Dietary Fibre and Your Body

Dietary fibre, or fibre, is the part of food that cannot be digested by our bodies. Therefore, there is a misconception that fibre is just food remains, while in fact, both water-soluble and water-insoluble fibre, found in different types of food, serve different functions in the body.

The health benefits of dietary fibre

Intake of adequate amount of foods with a high fibre content helps in the prevention of diseases and chronic body imbalances.

  • Prevention and relief of constipation
    Fibre increases the bulk of stool and stimulates motion of the large intestine. It absorbs water, lubricates the large intestine and makes defecation easier.

  • Digestion and absorption
    Fibre stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids and the action of "good" bacteria in the intestine, hence, stimulating the formation of vitamin B2.

  • Protection against cancer of the large intestine
    Fibre prevents the accumulation of cancer-causing (or carcinogenic) materials because it shortens the retention period of waste materials.

  • Weight-control
    As fibre absorbs large amount of water, it expands in volume and gives a sensation of fullness. Moreover, more time is required for chewing high-fibre foods, hence less food would be consumed.

  • Stabilization of blood sugar level and control of diabetes
    Fibre can slow down the body's absorption of sugar.

  • Lowering of blood cholesterol level, hence prevention of heart disease
    Water-soluble fibre combines with cholesterol and then excretes it.

Foods with a high fibre content

Only foods of plant origin contain fibre. Examples include:

Cereals - wholemeal bread, red rice, oatmeal
Vegetables - kale, watercress, spinach
Root vegetables - potato, sweet potato
Beans - mung bean, kidney bean, black-eye bean, red bean
Fungi - straw mushroom, button mushroom, white fungus, black fungus,
Fruits - orange, grapefruit, prune
Others- sesame, chestnut, cashew nut, peanut

Daily fibre requirement

Adolescence and adults need 25 g or above of fibre everyday while children need less. Add 5 to a child's age to calculate the amount of fibre needed per day (Age + 5 = grams of fibre required per day).
For example, a 6-year-old child would need 11g of dietary fibre per day.

Source: Central Health Education Unit of Department of Health

Essential facts

  • There is no fibre in fish, meat, shrimps, eggs and milk.
  • Obtain fibre from food rather than fibre tablets, powder or other supplements.
  • Consume different types of fibre-rich foods because fibre from different food serve different functions.
  • Increase fibre intake gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset from sudden intake of large amounts of fibre.
  • Too much fibre would lead to malnutrition and decreased absorption of minerals.
  • Take fruits and vegetables together with the skin, like unpeeled plums, grapes.
  • Fresh fruit is better than fruit juice because most of the fibre in fruit is damaged when
    it is squeezed to make juice.
  • Fibre absorbs a lot of water. For fibre to function effectively, a daily intake of 6-8 glasses of fluid is required.
  • Although fibre is important to health, we should not neglect other food types. A balanced diet and regular exercise are of utmost importance to good health.

Fibre content in different types of food

Food type and amount fibre content (g)
Cereals
White rice (uncooked) 100g 0.6
White rice (cooked) 100g 0.2
Brown rice (uncooked) 100g 3.4
Brown rice (cooked) 100g 1.8
Wholemeal bread 100g 6.8
Wholemeal cereals 100g 11.7
Cornflakes 100g 3.6
Oatmeal (uncooked) 100g 10.1
Oatmeal (cooked) 100g 1.7
Fruits/dried fruits
Apple (with skin) 100g 2.4
Orange (peeled and seedless) 100g 2.4
Banana (peeled) 100g 2.6
Dried prune (seedless) 100g 7.1
Raisin (seedless) 100g 3.7
Fig 100g 2.9
Dates (seedless) 100g 6.7
Dried Apricot 100g 7.7
Vegetables
Broccoli (cooked) 100g 3.3
Kale (cooked) 100g 2
Watercress (cooked) 100g 1.2
Lettuce (raw) 100g 1.5
Onion (raw) 100g 1.7
Tomato (raw) 100g 1.2
Carrot (cooked) 100g 3
Corn (cooked) 100g 2.4
Green pea (cooked) 100g 5.5
Potatoes (baked, with skin) 100g 2.2
Sweet potato (baked, with skin) 100g 3.3
Dried beans
Black-eye bean (cooked) 100g 6.5
Soya bean (cooked) 100g 6
Red bean (cooked) 100g 7.3
Mung bean (cooked) 100g 7.6
Kidney bean (cooked) 100g 6.4
Others
Cashew nut 100g 3.3
Peanut 100g 8.5
Sesame 100g 11.8
Chestnut (peeled) 100g 1.2

An example of a high-fibre diet

Meal Food type and amount fibre content (g)
Breakfast low-fat milk, 1 glass (240ml) 0
wholemeal bread, 2 slices (56g) 3.8
egg, 1 piece (50g) 0
Morning snack Raisins, 1/2 cup ( 49g) 1.8
wholemeal crackers, 3 pieces ( 24g) 1.9
Lunch brown rice, 1 bowl ( 195g) 3.5
steamed fish ( 120g) 0
broccoli (cooked), 1/2bowl ( 90g) 3.0
Banana, 1 piece ( 118g) 3
Afternoon snack boiled corn 1/2 bowl ( 82g) 2.0
Dinner brown rice, 1 bowl ( 195g) 3.5
kale (cooked), 1/2 bowl ( 65g) 1.3
meat or chicken ( 120g) 0
orange,1 piece ( 131g) 3.1

  Total fibre content 26.9
References:
Nutrient Information Inquiry System, Centre for food safety
 
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