Fibre, we’re sure you’ve heard of it, and you might’ve also heard that you’re probably not getting enough of it, tut, tut. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to increase your daily fibre intake – simply add more high fibre foods to your diet.
But what exactly is fibre? And why is it so imperative to make sure we’re getting a sufficient amount in our diets?
Well, carry on reading to find out 😊 Plus, discover all the nutritional benefits of boosting your fibre intake - we promise it'll be a worthy cause!
What is Fibre?
Dietary fibre, which can also be referred to as bulk or roughage, is naturally found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and legumes. Fibre is actually a complex carbohydrate found in plant cells that cannot be digested or absorbed by the small intestine. Due to this, it is instead broken down inside the large intestine by bacteria for food. These non-digestible carbohydrates are collectively known as fibre.
There are many different types of fibre, and they have various health effects on our bodies. They are most often categorized as the following -
- Soluble – Soluble types of fibre dissolve in your digestive system to form a gel-like substance, which is digested by friendly bacteria in the large intestine. Soluble fibre helps by softening stools, so they’re easier to pass.
- Insoluble - By contrast, insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in the gut and therefore cannot be digested. This means it adds bulk to your stools, making it easier for food to be steered through your digestive system.
- Resistant Starch - This type of starch is considered a fibre because it isn’t digested in your stomach or small intestine. It instead is developed into food for the friendly bacteria in your colon, improving gut health. It is said to bulk up stools, whilst speeding their passage through the colon.
Why Do We Need Fibre?
Fibre is considered a fundamental part of your diet, and for good reason! It can influence how fast food moves through our gut and helps ‘keep you regular’ by increasing the bulk in stools. Other important functions it includes is affecting blood cholesterol and how quickly we absorb sugar from foods and drinks, along with impacting the number and types of bacteria in our gut.
So how much fibre should you be having a day? Well, according to government guidelines the recommended daily fibre intake for adults is approximately 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, per day. However, most people generally don’t hit this.
If you are looking to increase your fibre intake, it’s probably best to do it gradually which many help to avoid gut issues such as flatulence and bloating. For prime gut health, it is also imperative to stay physically active, as well as making sure you’re getting plenty of fluids.
Just like most things in life, fibre isn’t great in extremely high quantities. Too much can cause excess gas, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea - so make sure not to go overboard!
Health Benefits of Fibre
Making sure you get enough fibre isn’t just about keeping our digestive systems healthy and encouraging regular bowel movements. There are a wide range of health benefits to be had by increasing your daily fibre intake.
A study discovered that the importance of fibre is closely linked with the significance of our gut microbes. A diet rich in fibre literally feeds “good” gut bacteria, making them thrive. In turn, they increase in amounts, kind and produce substances that can have valuable effects on our health.
Fibre can also reduce blood sugar spikes after a high carb meal. Soluble fibre can decrease the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your blood, which aids in lowering blood sugar levels. The reason for this is said to be due to delaying the rate at which your stomach empties food.
A high fibre diet can support heart health by lowering cholesterol levels which may help to reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also evidence to suggest eating enough fibre can decrease the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as bowel cancer.
There are even some types of fibre that may contribute to weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness and satisfying your appetite. This in turn, can lead to a reduced calorie intake by being less likely to overeat.
As we hope you can now agree, fibre is definitely a friend, not a foe, when it comes to your health and your diet. So go, get some fibre in you!