If you’ve ever had a consultation with me or participated in any of my programs you will know that I talk about how important fibre is a lot!
SO, WHAT IS FIBRE?
Fibre is the indigestible part of the plants we eat – like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and lentils. There are 3 types:
This type of fibre is soluble in water. Pectins and gums fall into this category. These fibres act to slow down stomach emptying and slow down the movement of food through the intestine. The benefit of this is they can help you feel fuller for longer, meaning more satisfaction after a meal and less overeating. These fibres also have the ability to decrease nutrient absorption. This property has lead to the recommendation of increasing soluble fibre as a way of reducing levels of cholesterol in the blood. It can also help to stabilise blood glucose levels.
This type of fibre is just like it sounds, insoluble in water. Instead of being soluble in water, it actually absorbs water. This fibre acts to increase the speed at which food moves through the intestine as well as adding bulk and softness to your stool making it easier to pass.
Resistant starch travels through the digestive system largely untouched – that is until it gets to the large intestine. See, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes required to breakdown resistant starch. But, the bacteria that live in our large intestine are capable of breaking down this fibre, through a process known as fermentation. It is for this reason that it is also known as a prebiotic – what the good bacteria in your gut eat. As a result of this eating – or fermentation – there are lots of chemical byproducts made in the gut that have a great influence on our health and wellbeing. They strengthen the gut, help you lose weight, protect against bowel cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and can even influence your mental health. Ways to get more resistant starch in your diet include having cooked and cooled rice, barley or quinoa (you could eat it as part of a salad or dessert), cooked and cooled potatoes (again, a nice addition to a lunchtime salad) or green bananas.
WHY IS FIBRE SO IMPORTANT?
Fibre is important for the health of our digestive system, and a healthy digestive system leads to overall health. If your digestive system isn’t functioning at its best, then the rest of you isn’t going to be either. The bacterial cells that live in our gut outnumber our human cells almost 3 to 1, and the substances they produce each day play an important role in our wellbeing. The things that we eat influence their health significantly, especially fibre. By eating more fibre we encourage a healthy diversity of bacteria in our gut that produce beneficial substances, substances that:
– signal our immune system
– influence our mood
– regulate our hunger and appetite hormones
– influence our ability to use stored energy in fat cells.
The key to having a healthy gut is having a large and diverse community of bacteria living there. A healthy balance between fibre loving and protein eating bacteria, but swinging slightly more in favour to the fibre loving types, is what makes up a healthy digestive system. And all of the research now is starting to point to an imbalance in our bacterial communities as a leading cause for many chronic diseases, and even your ability to manage your weight.
If we don’t eat enough fibre we encourage the growth of less beneficial bacteria, the ones that produce substances that cause inflammation and illness in the body.
HOW MUCH FIBRE DO I NEED?
The requirements for fibre differ slightly for men and women.
For women, aiming for about 30 grams of fibre each day is recommended.
For men, it is a little higher at approximately 40 grams.
You can achieve this by eating:
– 2 serves of fruit and 5 servings of veggies every day
– whole grains every day
– lentils and legumes at least twice a week
– nuts and seeds every day as part of your diet.
NOT SURE HOW YOU’LL GO ABOUT GETTING YOUR 30-40 GRAMS EACH DAY?
Give this delicious brownie recipe a go. It’s loaded with 7 grams of fibre per serve – and it’s delicious.
You can check out lots of other delicious recipes on my website here.
Just another way I’m helping you create healthy habits, not restrictions.