Are you eating enough fibre?
You have most likely heard that eating more fibre is good for you, but what exactly is fibre and why is it so important?
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate which comes from the thick cell wall of plants1. Fibre can be difficult for us to digest in the small intestine and so it passes on to the large intestine1 where it becomes food for the billions of gut bacteria that live there2. Our gut bacteria generate short chain fatty acids from the fermentation of dietary fibre which are now understood to have countless protective health benefits2. Fibre is generally divided into two categories: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre1, however, most foods contain a mixture of both and they both can play different roles in supporting good health. There is no reference daily intake (RDI) for fibre however, it is recommended that a minimum of 30g a day should be eaten by adults a day. To put this in perspective an apple contains 2.4 grams of fibre, two slices of wholemeal toast contain 4.7grams and 1 cup of cooked broccoli contains 4.6 grams.
An apple contains 2.4 grams of fibre, two slices of wholemeal toast contains 4.7 grams and 1 cup of broccoli contains 4.6 grams.
Soluble fibre is a form of fibre which dissolves in water forming a gel like form inside the body. This helps soften the stool so that is can glide through the digestive system more easily3(p.58). Find soluble in these foods:
· Oats and oatmeal.
· Legumes (beans, lentils and peas)
· Fruits and berries
· Nuts and seeds
Insoluble fibre is a form of fibre which does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fibre acts like a brush which sweeps through your bowels to keep everything moving. Think of it as ruffage and the tough guys which are found in wholegrains, nuts fruits and veggies. This fibre adds bulk to stools and so is helpful in keeping you regular and prevents constipation2. Find insoluble fibre in these:
· Vegetables, dark leafy greens, root vegetables with skins.
· Brown rice
Why is fibre important?
Fibre is now understood as an integral component to a healthy diet. Fibre has been found to help balance cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure1,2,. Fibre can also help to slow down digestion which in turn has an effect on insulin and blood sugar levels, it can also make you fill fuller sooner2. Eating more fibre can also aid constipation2 (insoluble fibre) and diarrhoea (soluble fibre).
What is now becoming more clear is that fibre is integral to our gut health as fibre is food for our gut bacteria.
What is now becoming more clear is that fibre is integral to our gut health as fibre is food for our gut bacteria. What’s more it is now understood that the amount and variety of fibre has dramatic effect on the composition of bacteria diversity and the short chain fatty acids which are produced.2. Increased fibre intake may also act as a protective factor in cancer of the large intestine.2
How can I add more fibre to my diet?
· Increase your daily consumption of fruit and vegetables aim for 2-3 portions of fruit and 5-8 portions of vegetables a day.
· Eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables, diversity is key for good gut health1,2.
· Oat bran is a valuable form of insoluble fibre you could add to porridge in the morning.
This has also been found to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure4.
· Switch to brown rice or wild rice instead of white.
· Choose wholemeal bread and pasta instead of processed varieties.
· Eat fruits and vegetables with their skins on.
· Incorporate beans and lentils into your diet in salads, stews, soups or make into dips.
· Switch up crisps and processed snacks for fibre rich alternatives such as popcorn or toasted chickpeas, raw veggie sticks, nuts and seeds or why not try kale chips.
· Always increase water intake when introducing fibre to help it move through your system3(p.58).
1.Dhingra, D., Michael, M., Rajput, H. and Patil, R. (2011). Dietary fibre in foods: a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, [online] 49(3), pp.255-266. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614039/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2018].
2.Valdes, A., Walter, J., Segal, E. and Spector, T. (2018). Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ, [online] p.k2179. Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179 [Accessed 10 Nov. 2018].
3.Beirne, A. and Nicolle, L. (2010). Biochemical imbalances in disease. London: Singing Dragon.
4. Rasane, P., Jha, A., Sabikhi, L., Kumar, A. and Unnikrishnan, V. (2013). Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods - a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, [online] 52(2), pp.662-675. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325078/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2018].