Strictly speaking, fibre is not a food element. Fibre is generally divided into two categories : the less digestible bran fibre from grains and the more digestible ‘cellulose’, fibre from fruits and vegetables. Cellulose forms the framework of fibres of plant and the walls of vegetable cells. The cellulose or food fibre in fruits and vegetables can be broken down to release nutrients, especially in the case of cooked vegetables. The bran fibre supplied by the whole grains, passes undigested through the intestinal tract in the form of silk fibres.
You need both types of fibres in your diet, for good health. But they should be supplied in a balanced diet that includes ‘some of all’ the basic foods.
The chief value of fibre is in the fact that, it is perfectly harmless and a laxative. Fibre seems to be Nature’s best provision as a laxative. Fibre, when it is softened by water becomes soft and pliable as wet paper, non-irritating but is an emollient (soothing substance). It excites the bowel not by scratching or irritating it but by a gentle titillation and by giving to the food sufficient mass to distend and stimulate the bowels to vigorous activity.
Doctors believe that constipation resulting from low- fibre foods residue, forms tiny pressure pouches (diverticulli) in the walls of the colon. Feacal waste retained too long in the colon inflames these pouches and allows bacterial activity to convert bile acids to cancer-causing toxins.
Straining to empty packed bowels as in constipation may result in painful piles and so on.
Furthermore, over consumption of zero-fibre foods such as meat and dairy products and processed carbohydrates lead to a build-up of fat and cholesterol in blood leading to thickening and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease. Refined carbohydrates low in fibre play a role in development of diabetes, obesity, colon cancer and other diseases.
When planning your meals for an increased intake of food-fibre, it is enough to know that meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and processed foods do ‘not’ contain fibre.
The best sources of fibre are : Whole grain bread and cereals. Raw fruits and berries: apples, plumps, cherries, grapes, oranges, figs, bananas, apricots, strawberries, raising, huckle berries, goose berries, cran berries, dried fruits (also high in sugar) also seeds and nuts.
Vegetables : Asparagus, beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, kholrabi, lettuce, onions, parsnips, dried peas, baked potatoes, pumpkin, spinach. Agar-Agar (china grass) is a non-irritant and a remarkably effective laxative.
“Popcorn” is the most wholesome of cereal foods. If you enjoy popcorn you’ll be pleased to learn that plain popcorn is non-fattening and high in fibre. It’s also a complete protein, easily digested and thus superior to many denatured breakfast foods which are found in the market. It is non-fattening and practically starch free, since in the process of popping, its starch is transferred into dextrine, a digestive intermediate carbohydrate which is easily assimilable. Moreover, it is a laxative, providing bulk and by its tendency to absorb moisture in the intestine, promotes peristalsis (forward intestinal movement). Because of its bulk it is rarely eaten in excess, and can be freely used to curb between meal hunger.