Dietary fibre or ‘roughage’ is an essential part of a healthy diet. Due to its indigestibility, fibre helps you feel fuller for longer, improves gut health, and maintains your blood sugar levels.
Yet whilst fibre helps maintain weight and aid normal gut functioning for some, its hard-to-digest nature can be a nightmare if you have digestive difficulties.
Digestion varies from person to person, and it is particularly sensitive in cases of inflammatory bowel disease. And that’s when you have to ditch high-fibre foods temporarily.
A low-fibre diet, sometimes called a low residue diet, helps relieve digestive issues. This diet aims to give your digestive system a rest. You can follow a low-fibre diet for many reasons, but it all leads to the typical result of leaving minimal residue in the bowel. You can even consider this diet the first step towards effective bowel cleanse.
Read on to know what a low-fibre diet is if you might require one, and which foods to include and avoid.
A low-fibre diet is a short-term diet plan primarily for gastrointestinal disease management. Some preliminary studies show the positive influence of low-fibre intake on Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, bloating, bowel obstruction, and pre-and/or post-abdominal surgery. The fibre intake in a low-fibre diet should be no more than 10 g per day.
While the diet is suitable for bowel issues, not everyone can adopt a low-fibre lifestyle. So, who might require a low-fibre diet?
A doctor advises this diet for the following reasons:
Reduce the undigested food amount passing through the gutEase diarrhoea and stomach cramps, including flare-ups of more severe health concerns like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitisTo reduce the amount of gas production in the large bowel.Reduce the workload of the digestive systemLessen the amount of stoolsAs a bowel preparation protocol before colonoscopy, colonography, or gynaecological surgery
The HealthifyMe Note
A low-fibre diet is only safe to follow for a short period due to its restrictive nature. One benefit of this diet is that it gives your digestive system a rest and settles gastrointestinal symptoms. However, following it as a long-term plan could prevent you from getting the necessary nutrients. Expert nutritionists at HealthifyMe can recommend a personalised low-fibre diet, depending on your condition and tolerance.
Despite being one of the most challenging diets, the best part is that many cooked veggies are allowed while you are on the low-fibre diet. However, you need to be careful with the portions altogether. Below you will find the foods you can eat to experience more beneficial results.
Refined bread, crackers, cereals, waffles, and pancakes that have less than 0.5 grams of fibre in a single servingPasta foods like noodles, spaghetti, and macaroniWhite rice, white pitta, chapati
Well-cooked and canned vegetables without skin or seedsLettuceVegetable juice made without seeds or pulp Potatoes without skin
Canned or cooked fruitsApple sauceRipe bananas, ripe cantaloupe, and honeydew melonFruits juices without pulp
MilkYoghurtCheese Cottage cheese (Paneer)Sugar-free ice creamSoy, almond, and rice milkLactose-free milk
Oils and Dressings
Olive oilMayonnaiseSalad dressings without seeds
Thoroughly cooked or tender beef, ham, poultry, fish, and shellfishEggsSmooth peanut butter
Fats and Desserts
ButterPlain cakes, cookies, and pies without fruits and nutsPlain hard candyCarbonated drinksJelly, honey, syrupPlain gravy with salt, pepper, and herbs
As you can see, most foods in a low-fibre diet are perhaps less healthy than high-fibre alternatives. Therefore, follow this diet when you have no better option, such as on medical grounds.
It’s best to change your diet after consulting a nutritionist. Speaking to the health experts at HealthifyMe, you can get proper guidance on balanced and portion-controlled meals.
The HealthifyMe Note
A low-fibre diet comprises foods that your body can easily absorb and digest. However, it also swaps healthy wholegrain for white, refined ones, which contain more calories. With this in mind, ask for a doctor’s opinion if you are thinking of starting a low-fibre diet.
Low Fiber Diet – Reference Meal Plan
Below is a sample meal plan that gives you a glimpse of a typical day on a low-fibre diet.
Breakfast: (Fibre: 2 g)
Scrambled eggs with two slices of white bread toast Unsweetened tea: 1 cup
Mid-morning Snack: (Fibre: 1.5 g)
Fat-free plain yoghurt: 1 cupSliced banana: ½ cupOne small bagel
Lunch: (Fibre: 5 g)
Baked chicken breast: 120 gSautéed zucchini: 1 cup
Evening Snack (Fibre: 1.5 g)
Apple cinnamon rice cakes: 2Peanut butter: 1 tbsp
Dinner (Fibre: 3.5 g)
Fish cooked with your preferred choice of seasoning: 200 gRice: ¾ cupStir-fried/sauteed pumpkin: 1 cup
Possible Downsides of a Low Fiber Diet
For some people, a low-fibre diet can bring short-term benefits. However, a low-fibre diet can deprive you of various essential nutrients if followed for an extended period. Here are some of the downsides of a low-fibre diet.
Fibre-rich foods are satiating and low in calories that might help in weight loss. But, on the contrary, a low-fibre diet might cause weight gain.
Hard to Fight Inflammation
The foods with the most antioxidant properties are those containing naturally occurring fibre. Since a low-fibre diet drastically removes antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, your body can find it hard to tackle chronic inflammation.
Disrupt Gut Microbiome
A low-fibre diet doesn’t help the good bacteria in your gut. Fibre is their primary food source. Without it, these good gut bacteria can die, and your gut can become overrun with more harmful bacteria. Not enough fibre can also induce irregular bathroom patterns.
Creating a Low Fiber Meal Plan – The HealthifyMe Way
Here are simple yet effective ways to craft a healthy and balanced low-fibre diet plan to make your meals varied and highly nutritious.
Focus on High-quality Protein-rich Meals and Snacks
Most protein-rich, animal-based food sources like eggs, meat, and fish lack fibre. And the good news is they offer plenty of other critical nutrients, including omega-3-fatty acids, choline, vitamin B, and more.
Also, ensure to consume leaner and soft-cooked meats, as they are pretty easy to digest. Nonetheless, be cautious of red meat if you have severe digestion issues.
Low-Fibre Fruits Will Add Value to Your Diet
Almost all fruits are rich in fibre. However, add certain low-fibre fruits to your diet with suitable varieties. For example, fruits like ripe bananas, watermelon, apricots, raw figs, avocado, honeydew, and cantaloupe are low in fibre but contain other nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
If you have decided to pick up a fruit, peel the fruit’s skin to reduce the fibre content. Also, chewing until the fruit turns soft will aid in easy digestion.
Make Some Space for Refined Carbohydrates
Add a small serving of refined carbs through potatoes and white rice daily to meet your body’s nutritional needs. However, don’t go overboard and keep it in check since they are high in calories and might lead to weight gain.
Add Some Low-Fibre Vegetables
Like fruits, veggies are also the powerhouse for various nutrients. A low-fibre diet means you don’t have to miss out on such an excellent food source.
Choose any two or three low-fibre vegetables per day with a specific portion. Cooking vegetables such as tomatoes, cauliflower, beetroots, and cucumber might ease digestion and lower the fibre content.
Choose Healthy Fats
While you are on a restrictive diet plan like low-fibre, it is critical to achieve your goal without compromising your body’s nutritional requirements. For instance, instead of bad fats, ensure to eat healthy fat food sources that are rich in omega-3-fatty acids like olive oil or hemp seeds.
They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Remember, most high-fat foods are hard to digest, so remember that moderation is the key.
Getting adequate fibre through a balanced diet by consuming vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds is crucial for overall health and preventing potential diseases. However, sometimes your stomach needs a rest period away from the fibre.
Therefore, while you are on the low-fibre diet, ensure to add other critical nutrients and follow an active lifestyle to stay healthy. From a practical standpoint and the necessity for a balanced diet, you should not follow a low-fibre diet for the long term unless for medical reasons.