We are starting a series of write-ups on the right foods for performing artists and here, we discuss about dietary fibres.
What are dietary fibres?
We are so familiar with the saying ‘Include a lot of fibre in your diet’. Have we, however thought about why we should stress so much on the ‘fibre content’ of our diets?
Let’s start by understanding what dietary fibres actually are:
Unlike other food components like fat, protein and carbohydrates, dietary fibres (also called roughage or bulk) are those components that our body cannot absorb and convert it into a simpler form. Dietary fibres found in our food moves into the digestive system through ingestion and passes down the stomach, intestines and colon almost intact.
There are two types of fibres found in our diet. They are soluble fibre and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres get dissolved in water and become viscous in form. It gets fermented in the colon and gets converted into active byproducts. These byproducts are associated with a better functioning of the body’s internal physiology.
Insoluble fibres on the other hand are not soluble in water and add bulk to the diet. These fibres get fermented in the large intestines and helps ease the process of passing stools. When we say a diet rich in dietary fibres, it is actually a diet high in soluble or insoluble form of fibres. Moreover, both the fermentation process and the byproducts combined are often responsible for the health benefits that dietary fibre provides.
Role of dietary fibres
Performing artists require a healthy digestive system to maintain their energy levels for practice sessions and performances. They also need to keep their weight in control.
Although dietary fibres are not categorised under macro or micronutrients, these fibres play an important role in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Some key roles of dietary fibres are:
Control blood glucose levels by slowing down glucose absorption rate .Therefore it
prevents a rise in the insulin levels in blood.
Lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in blood thus preventing coronary heart diseases.
Improves bowel function by preventing constipation.
Helps with managing weight as it provides a satiety feeling after a meal without adding calories.
Reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
Best sources of dietary fibres for performing artists
One of the best sources of fibre is bran. Oat bran provides more of soluble fibre that helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Other forms of bran like wheat bran and rice bran are rich sources of insoluble dietary fibre. Their dietary intake helps prevent constipation.
In addition to bran, different bean varieties like lima beans, kidney beans, cooked lentils and broad beans are all natural fibre rich foods. Excess intake of these foods might cause intestinal discomfort/bloating problems which in turn can affect the performer’s schedule. So we need to make sure to introduce such beans varieties in small quantities at first and gradually increase the portion size as the artist gets accustomed to the new diet.
Blackberries, currants, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries are wonderful sources of dietary fibre if eaten fresh. Please do make sure you have a few of them before you leave for your dance sessions. Berries could always be used as toppings/food ingredients for a cup of hot cereal/salads, yoghurt and so on.
Coming to a routine way of including fibre into your diet easily, whole grains are the best choice. Wheat flour, oats, barley, quinoa, whole grain bread and brown rice form great sources of dietary fibre.
Last but not the least, please make sure you carry a box of nuts like walnuts, cashew nuts and almonds whenever you are off for practice sessions or performances. They are good sources of dietary fibre. Fresh or frozen peas, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and beet greens are also fibre-rich foods that can be included in your soups, stews or gravy dishes. You can include this in your pre/post performance hours while you are more relaxed. Make sure to leave an hour or so after having food before you start with your sessions.
Cooking and Storage of fibre-rich foods
Most of the fibre rich foods as mentioned above are available in dried form or have a better shelf life compared to many fresh foods; storage of fibre rich foods does not impose a problem. Cooking methods like steaming or sautéing does not reduce the fibre content of the foods in most cases unless we overcook the food ingredients.
The key role fibre plays in improving one’s health has now been accepted worldwide. Moreover research studies do not prove any nutrient loss from foods due to the interaction of fibre contained in foods.
It is a fact that inclusion of fibre rich foods in your diet requires careful planning especially in between a performer’s busy day-to- day schedule. If followed wisely, this practice can definitely go a long way in improving the overall diet quality and maintaining a healthy digestion in performers.