Are you filling up on fibre? Or are you, like most of us, not getting enough? Fibre is a hot topic in the world of nutrition at the moment and it’s not hard to see why. We all know that fibre is good for keeping us regular but research has shown that low fibre intake is linked to weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and IBS. A study from the University of Leeds found that for every additional 7g per day serving of fibre, cardiovascular disease risk lowered by 9%. Low carb diets may be popular at the moment, but studies have shown that healthy, wholegrain carbohydrates can do wonders for our health.
What is fibre?
Fibre is a form of carbohydrate that comes from plants that the body can’t digest. It passes through the gastrointestinal tract mostly intact until it reaches the colon, where it is either fermented by bacteria or used to bulk stool.
There are two important types of fibre, soluble and insoluble; both of which remain undigested, so they are not used for energy and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Think of fibre as food for your gut bacteria, not food for you. Both insoluble and soluble fibre are beneficial to us in different ways and fibre-rich foods often contain both. Soluble fibre contains compounds like pectins and beta glucans (found in oats and fruit like apples and pears). This form of fibre helps to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and regulate blood sugar levels. It can also be found in black beans, avocado, sweet potato and turnips. Insoluble fibre contains cellulose (a form of indigestible starch found in whole grains and nuts). Insoluble fibre passes through the digestive tract and helps to add bulk to stools, prevent constipation and regulate bowel movements. Insoluble fibres are also found in cauliflower, wheat bran, green beans and potatoes.
What does fibre do?
The main role of fibre is to bulk and soften the stools. But did you know that fibre can also help with the following:
- Supporting weight loss by increasing satiety and reducing insulin and blood glucose levels.
- Binding to hormones in your gut once they have been detoxified by the liver.
- Regulating inflammatory response from the gastrointestinal flora and mucosal lining.
- Supporting a strong and resilient immune system.
- Improving digestion. The gut microbial diversity of people who ate more than 30 different plant types per week was greater than those who ate 10 or fewer.
So how do you ensure you are getting enough fibre?
- Increase your daily intake of colourful, whole fruits and vegetables. Foods like Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, chicory, leeks, onions and garlic are rich in fibre.
- Choose wholegrains over refined grains.
- Includes legumes and beans as these are a good source of resistant starch. A cup of cooked beans can deliver up to 75% of your daily fibre needs.
- Add a handful of green vegetables to your soups or stews.
- Add grated apple or pear to your porridge.
- Swap unhealthy snacks for nuts, seeds or berries which are all high in fibre.
- Leave the peel and skin on fruits as vegetables as often half the fibre is removed when they are peeled.
The trick is to start low and slow. Increasing your fibre intake too quickly can result in bloating and gas and it might take a bit of time for your digestive system to adjust.
If you’re looking for a simple way to improve your health, increasing your intake of fibre should be at the top of your list. So, now you’re in the know, next time you visit the supermarket make sure you fill up your shopping trolley with plenty of fibre-filled foods!