There’s a lot more to good nutrition than just making sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals. Dietary fibre (also known as roughage) is an important component of healthy nutrition because by ensuring good gut health you also ensure you’re gaining the maximum nourishment from the food you eat. The health of your digestive system contributes to everything from your ability to absorb nutrients, the state of your blood sugar and cholesterol levels to the robustness of your immune system and whether “good” bacteria (the probiotic micro-organisms living in your gut) can flourish. It makes a lot of sense then to pay attention to whatever might increase your gut health.
So exactly what health-promoting effects does dietary fibre have on your digestive tract?
“Baobab fruit powder is an excellent source of soluble dietary fibre compared with other fruits”
What is Dietary Fibre?
First let’s look at what dietary fibre is. Very simply, dietary fibre is the part of plants we cannot completely digest – usually non-digestible carbohydrates, lignins, cellulose and non-starch polysaccharides such as pectin, amongst others.
There are two kinds of dietary fibre:
- Soluble Fibre dissolves in water to form a viscous gel-like substance. This is why it’s so vital to drink plenty of water if you’re also eating fibre-rich foods. In the digestive tract, soluble fibre has the effect of slowing down the absorption of certain food components particularly sugars and fats. This is why fibre plays a role in balancing blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Insoluble Fibre is impossible to digest and passes through your system. While it doesn’t dissolve in water, it absorbs water and therefore plays a role in bulking up stool material and speeding up the transit time of food in the digestive tract thereby contributing to healthy elimination of wastes.
Of course you need both kinds of fibre but soluble fibre is the kind you want more of. Nutritionist Sara Bilbe says “Baobab powder provides up to 50% dietary fibre by weight, 75% of which is soluble fibre. This compares very well with oat bran (15% fibre of which about 50 % is soluble); flaxseeds (30 % fibre of which about 30 % is soluble) and at the high end, psyllium seed husks (80% fibre of which about 66% is soluble fibre).”
Pectin is one of the highest levels of soluble dietary fibre in Baobab powder contains is pectin, more commonly known as the substance used for thickening jams.
“Baobab fruit powder provides up to 50% dietary fibre by weight, 75% of which is soluble fibre”
Why do we need Dietary Fibre?
Dietary fibre functions in a number of important ways all of which contribute significantly to overall digestive health:
- As already mentioned, insoluble fibre (consumed with plenty of water) can help to prevent constipation by making stools bulky and soft, moving stool material through the gastrointestinal tract
- Fibre (pectin) has the effect of slowing glucose absorption in the digestive tract thereby helping to control blood sugar levels especially in diabetics.
- Consumption of pectin has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
- Once undigested fibre passes through the small intestine, it arrives in the large intestine where it acts as fuel to friendly intestinal flora (probiotics). In this way fibre acts as a prebiotic, helping probiotics to flourish.
- The gastrointestinal system contains more than half the body’s immune system. Prebiotics nourish probiotics, with some studies suggesting that this might have such far-reaching effects as improving the overall immune response and preventing allergy development.
- Because food with fibre takes longer to leave the stomach, consuming fibre-rich foods has the additional effect of making one feel satisfied for longer so one eats less; in this way fibre can be said to assist with weight control.
- Some studies have indicated that consuming sufficient fibre of the right kind has heart-health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and inflammatory conditions.
How much Dietary Fibre do we need?
The general recommended amount of fibre for adults is between 25-35g per day. Different ages have different requirements as do men and women with men generally requiring slightly more than women.
The health benefits of prebiotic foods
There’s good evidence that the dietary fibre in Baobab powder has a prebiotic effect. Essentially, the benefits of prebiotics are the extent to which they support probiotics. Nutritionist Katherine Tudsbury, says “Probiotics are the bacteria which make up the natural flora of our gastro-intestinal system. These trillions of “good” bacteria benefit the body by keeping the growth of the ‘harmful’ bacteria regulated, synthesizing vitamin K, producing certain hormones and promoting digestion, absorption and elimination.
Animal studies have shown that ‘healthy’ bacteria can also reduce anxiety and depression. New research is discovering that the trillions of bacteria in the human GI tract communicate with the enteric nervous system (the extensive lining of nerve cells in our GI tract that communicate with the brain) and alter brain function.
Other human research has shown that inflammation markers and obesity are linked to the state of our gut flora. The studies show that the lower the probiotic diversity of the gut, the higher the incidence of obesity, insulin resistance and other inflammatory conditions.”
It makes sense therefore that we maintain a nourishing environment for probiotics with prebiotics and dietary fibre such as baobab fruit powder can help with this.
“the dietary fibre in baobab fruit powder has prebiotic effects which support the healthy flourishing of probiotic cultures in the digestive tract”
Which conditions benefit from Dietary Fibre?
Some common disorders associated with lack of fibre in the diet are:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Diverticular disease
- Inflammatory conditions
As with all information regarding nutrition, it’s sensible to take a holistic approach rather than following a narrowly rigid protocol. No one aspect of nutrition exists in isolation and exactly how nutrition and our digestive processes works isn’t yet completely understood by medical science. What we do know is that nutrition works synergistically taking many different factors into account. For instance, although fruit has much to recommend it in terms of its vitamin and fibre content, eating too much fruit can overload your system with sugars so it’s best to balance fruit consumed by eating fibre-rich vegetables as well.
Fortunately, baobab, although a fruit, is rich in fibre and many other significant nutrients but low in sugar.
“Baobab powder, while rich in nutrients and dietary fibre, is low in sugar”
Why EcoProducts Baobab Powder?
Baobab powder is a rich source of dietary fibre. The baobab fruit is one of the few fruits to dry out completely while still on the tree. The pods are only harvested when they fall to the ground (EcoProducts Baobab pods are never taken directly off the tree) and they only fall when they are completely dried out. This means that the powder requires minimal handling and processing. All we do is separate the powder from the seeds (which we press to get Baobab oil) and then sieve it to give it the wonderfully fine, silky textured powder which mixes easily into foods and drinks that EcoProducts has become known for.
Baobab powder has been safely consumed for thousands of years and Baobab fruit powder received its GRAS certification (Generally Recognised As Safe) from the FDA in 2008.
Baobab powder has a shelf life of 2 years.
“EcoProducts Baobab Powder is a rich source of dietary fibre “
How to enjoy Baobab Powder
Mix a teaspoon or two into your breakfast cereal or porridge or add a tablespoon to your favourite fruit smoothie or green drink. Click here for our recipes.
Because it’s a natural food, there’s no cut and dried formula for how much Baobab powder to consume a day. However, to enjoy the full benefits of baobab powder and for optimum results, as a general rule we recommend taking around 2 tablespoons a day. Two tablespoons of baobab powder (12g) will give you approximately 6g of dietary fiber.
“Two tablespoons of Baobab powder (12g) will give you approximately 6g of dietary fiber”