Eating an orange is more nutritious than drinking orange juice. While the juice contains fructose, vitamins, minerals and a bunch of other nutrients, what gets left behind is the all important dietary fibre, which though not really a nutrient has a very important role to play in our diet. Dietary fibre or roughage is an indigestible part of food that can be either soluble or insoluble; both types are vital. Dietary fibre is present in more plant based foods – vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, cereals and legumes are all important sources of fibre.
Consciously consuming vegetables and fruits on a daily basis ensures we get the needed amount of soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre slows down digestion, allowing the body to fully absorb nutrients from food and simultaneously reduces the amount of fat and sugars absorbed into the blood stream. So next time you eat a rich steak or a bowl of pasta, remember to eat a salad on the side. Insoluble fibre on the other hand adds bulk to your meal. When you begin with a portion of vegetables, fruits, seeds or other high fibre foods, you tend to feel full and avoid eating excess carbohydrates or protein. This insoluble fibre also keeps the digestive track clean and regulates bowel movements.
When you squeeze the juice out of fruits or vegetables, you lose out on roughage. It is always recommended that you eat fruits whole and make juices using the whole vegetable including the pulp. To maintain the fibre content in vegetables it is recommended that they be steamed, stir fried or grilled carefully, that is of course if you cannot consume the vegetable raw. The application of too much heat or overcooking vegetables reduces their fibre content. When adding vegetables to curries or soups do so towards the end, after the condiments, meat and curry base has cooked. This will ensure the vegetables don’t overcook.
It is for their high fibre content that whole grains are recommended over processed or polished grains. Choose to eat brown rice or red rice instead of white rice. You don’t even need to reduce the portion you eat. Brown rice has a higher percentage of fibre and a lower percentage of fat, carbohydrates and starch than an equal portion of white rice. One can enhance food with added fibre in many small ways. For example wheat bran, oat flour or millet flour can be added to your daily rotis, bhakris or chapattis. When making pita bread or a pizza base add semolina or replace refined flour with whole wheat flour for healthier bread.
Oats, prunes, lentils, green leafy vegetables, barley, dates, pears and broccoli are some of foods with the highest fibre content. Eating these and other high fibre foods has several health benefits. Starting this habit early by introducing children to vegetables and fruits can keep them safe from so diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems and obesity. If you are already suffering from any of these diseases, high fibre foods are an important part of the cure.