What is Fibre?
Fibre is an important nutrient in improving our overall health. Fibre is the edible parts of plants that are unable to be digested, or broken down, and absorbed in our small intestine. These are then either partly or fully broken down by the bacteria in our large intestine.
In Australia, it is currently recommended that women consume 25g of fibre per day and men consume 30g of fibre per day. However, most Australians currently do not consume enough fibre.
Types of Fibre
There are three different types of fibre. As you will see below, they each affect the function of our gut in different ways and have numerous health benefits.
Soluble fibre is mainly found in the cells of plants and includes pectins, gums and mucilage. This form of fibre assists with delaying or slowing down the speed that our stomach empties. This not only helps us feel fuller for longer, but also helps to keep our blood sugar levels stable and lower cholesterol. Soluble fibre is found in foods such as oats, barley, vegetables, fruit and legumes.
Insoluble fibre is the building block for plant cell walls and include cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. This type of fibre helps to keep our stools soft by absorbing water throughout our gut. This assists with preventing constipation and keeping our bowel movements regular. Insoluble fibre also helps to keep us fuller for longer and supports keeping our gut microbiome happy and healthy. It is found in foods such as the skins of fruit and vegetables, seeds, nuts and wholegrain cereals and breads.
Resistant starch is not digested or broken down in the small intestine. This means that when it gets to our large intestine it is fermented by the bacteria in our bowel to produce gas. This promotes good bacteria and forms short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These play an important role in our gut health and maintaining a healthy microbiome. They may also help to protect against bowel cancer and assists with lowering cholesterol levels. Resistant starch is found in rice, under-cooked pasta, unripe bananas, cooked and cooled potato.
Health Benefits of Fibre
Adequate fibre intakes have been shown to decrease a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fibre can also help with making us for fuller for longer after meals and plays a vital role in making sure our gut is working normally and keeping our gastrointestinal system healthy.
Eating enough fibre has been shown to;
- Decrease cholesterol levels.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Control our blood glucose levels.
- Improve and prevent constipation.
- Decrease loose stools, manage diarrhoea and the symptoms associated with diarrhoea such as stomach pain, cramps and wind.
- Increase the number of good bacteria in our gut.
My Expert Tips for Increasing Your Fibre Intake
The easiest way to make sure that we are getting enough fibre each day is by eating a healthy balanced diet with a wide variety of foods. This is easily achieved by ensuring that we eat foods from each of the 5 food groups. These are grains (cereals), meat and/or alternatives, fruit, vegetables and dairy and/or alternatives.
My expert tips for increasing your fibre intake are;
- Include at least 1-1.5 cups of vegetables with your lunch.
- Include at least 1.5-2 cups of vegetables with your dinner.
- Include vegetables as snacks.
- Choose wholegrain and/or high fibre breads, cereals, pastas and rice instead of refined or white versions of these foods.
- Eat at least 2 pieces of fruit each day.
- Use fruit for snacks and desserts.
- Add fruit to your breakfast cereal, smoothies or yoghurt.
- Keep edible skins on your fruit and vegetables.
- Try having a small handful of nuts or seeds as snacks.
- Add legumes such as beans or lentils to your meals.
When we increase our intake of fibre it is important that we also make sure that we are drinking enough water throughout the day. As mentioned above, fibre absorbs water in our gut to assist with keeping our stools soft and preventing constipation. Not drinking enough fluid can result in fluid not being absorbed from our gut into our stools. This can result in harder stools and cause stomach pain or discomfort and constipation.
If you’re struggling with bloating and aren’t sure what to eat, I show my clients step by step how to follow the FODMAP diet to eliminate bloating and live their best life. Being diagnosed with IBS doesn’t have to be a punishment when you know what to do, how to eat and how to live your best life and I’ll show you that when we work together, apply for coaching.
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- National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat for Health-Educator Guide. Canberra; 2013:11-23.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand-Executive Summary. Canberra; 2006.
- Sekirov I, Russell SL, Antunes LCM, Finlay BB (2010). Gut microbiota in health and disease. Physiological Reviews. 90: 859-904.