The role of dietary fibre in the management of diabetes

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What is Dietary fibre?

Dietary fibre, also called roughage or bulk, is that part of the food we eat which is not digested in the stomach or small intestine (by enzymes) and directly passes into the large intestine.

Dietary fibre is predominantly carbohydrates. Foods rich in dietary fibre include fruits, vegetables, cereals and nuts.

Dietary fibre is mainly of 2 types – Water soluble and insoluble. The key components in both are different.

Insoluble fibre is made of cellulose (raw vegetables, beetroots) or hemicellulose (cereals) or lignin (flax seeds, carrots).

Pectin (fruits, vegetables, legumes), gums (legumes, seaweed) and mucilages (acacia gum, tragacanth gum) are the key components of water soluble fibre.


Soluble fibre lowers cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood, while insoluble fiber helps food pass through the intestines faster, adds bulk to the stool and is commonly used in constipation.


How does dietary fibre help in diabetes?

Needless to say, it is the soluble dietary fibre that helps to control diabetes.

Soluble dietary fibre, as the name suggests is soluble in water and forms a gel which reduces the absorption of glucose. It slows down the digestion of fats and blood sugars giving the body enough time to metabolise or use them up.

Fibre diet does not increase insulin levels, but improves insulin resistance which is the most common reason for type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the regular amount of insulin produced by the body is not enough to metabolise the glucose and convert it into other substances, thus leading to higher blood sugar levels.

The main causative factor for insulin resistance is increased fat content in the body which forms layers over the muscles and blocks enough insulin from entering the muscle.

Hence, soluble dietary fibre controls blood sugar levels in diabetics by a combined effect of increased nutrients, decreased absorption of fats and sugars and by improving metabolism.

But to feel the difference, you have to take dietary fibre regularly for a considerable period of time.

The daily recommended amount of dietary fibre in the daily diet is around 30-40 grams per day.

Flax seeds, carrots, apples, hazelnuts, oats, barley, beans, apricots, pears, turnips are some of the best sources of soluble dietary fibre.

Here is the content of soluble fibre in some of the foods which will help you to figure out your daily diet to get the required amount.

1 cup of turnips – 3.5 gm         

3 apricots – 1.4 gms

1 medium sized apple or guava – 1gm

A tablespoon of flax seeds – 1.4 gm

A cup of cooked oats – 2 gm

Half cup of cooked barley – 1 gm.

So it is quite an exercise to get the 40 gm of dietary fibre every day for your body.

And next time you are buying any food items, check the ingredients carefully for the total amount of soluble fibre in them.

There is adequate evidence that dietary fibre helps in the management of blood sugars and bad cholesterol and that it is of significance in people with diabetes.

It will easily take a month to get your body adjusted to the special diet, and once it is done, it should be a smooth ride.

So, get started!