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Everything you need to know about fibre

What is fibre anyhow?

Weirdly, fibre is the stuff that your body can’t process! By definition, fibre is a type of carbohydrate that your body is unable to break down. Instead, it passes into your large intestine (i.e. colon), where it becomes food for your gut bugs.1https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/starchy-foods-sugar-and-fibre/fibre/

So why eat fibre?

Crucially for gut health, fibre feeds good bacteria.2https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-is-fiber-good-for-you Humans don’t have the enzyme to break down and digest many of these fibres. But your intestinal bacteria do!

Dietary fibres feed the good bacteria in your intestines, functioning as “prebiotics.” These fibres boost the populations of beneficial bacteria, which has a number of important benefits for human health.3https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-is-fiber-good-for-you Well-fed gut bugs produce beneficial substances, like butyrate, that help to reduce inflammation.

Fibre also helps to prevent constipation, boost digestion and protect against diseases and conditions including heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.4https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/starchy-foods-sugar-and-fibre/fibre/5 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/digestive-health/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/6https://irishheart.ie/news/heart-of-the-matter-facts-on-fibre/ Opting for fibre-rich foods is great for weight loss as well, as it makes you feel fuller and therefore able to make wiser food choices throughout the day.

What are the different types of fibre?

There are two main types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Ideally, you should be incorporating both types of fibre into your diet for maximum health benefits. Insoluble fibre passes through our body without being broken down and helps other foods move through; it’s found in whole grains, skins of fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, and wholemeal flour. Soluble fibre which is found in the fleshier parts of fruit and veg, legumes, pulses, and oats, can prevent and treat constipation by helping to keep stools soft. Soluble fibre may also help lower cholesterol.7https://irishheart.ie/news/heart-of-the-matter-facts-on-fibre/

How much fibre do you actually need?

Adults need a whopping 30 grams of fibre per day. However, according to the British Dietetic Association, most adults in the UK are only consuming 18g of fibre daily, which is only about 60% of what it should be.8https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fibre.html

Children from age two should aim for 15g per day. Primary school age children should try to eat 20g per day. Secondary school age children should try to eat 25g per day.

If you’re working to increase your fibre intake, it’s important to do so slowly and gradually, in order to allow your system time to adjust.

How can you increase fibre diversity?

Fibre occurs naturally in plant foods like whole grains, vegetables, legumes, pulses, fruit, nuts, and seeds.9https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/starchy-foods-sugar-and-fibre/fibre/

For optimal gut health, you should aim to consume your fibre from a variety of different food sources. Here are some tips for increasing fibre in your diet:

  • Look at every meal as an opportunity to add more fibre. Can I add more colour? Can I add more grains? Can I keep the skin on these vegetables?
  • Choose a breakfast that fuels your body with fibre, such as porridge, baked oats or a gut-brain health smoothie. Top your meal with some mixed seeds for an extra fibre boost!
  • Opt for the wholegrain and wholewheat options when choosing rice and pastas. Go for the wholemeal or wholegrain bread or try Ezekiel bread. Ezekiel bread is low GI and contains multiple sources of natural fibre from sprouted grains and legumes.
  • There are lots of ways to maximise the fibre benefit from your potatoes! Leave the skin on (this is where most of the fibre is found) and enjoy the extra taste and texture.10https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/2/primarycare/pcteams/dublinsouthpcts/dunlaoghaireglasthulepct/phew/top-10-fibre-tips.pdf After cooking potatoes, chill them in the fridge for a few hours before eating (it’s ok to reheat them afterwards). The carbohydrates (starch) in chilled potatoes are different to the carbs in potatoes served piping hot. Cooling them in the fridge for a few hours makes easily digestible starch turn into “resistant starch”, which feeds your gut bacteria, i.e. acts as a prebiotic. Don’t worry, reheating the potatoes won’t reduce the resistant starch content!
  • Add 1 tbsp of Complete Prebiotic to your breakfast. It is a great addition to smoothies, porridge, baked oats, pancakes, etc. This is a combination of 18 different types of naturally occurring fibre and can account for 10g out of your recommended 30g daily.
  • Add more whole grains! Think oats, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa. If you’re having a rice dish, swap out your white rice for wholegrain rice and add some quinoa to the same pot. These simple swaps diversify your fibre intake without any extra cost or effort!
  • Bulk out your meals by adding lentils or beans to curries, soups, salads, stir-frys, etc.
  • Choose snacks that provide fibre like nuts and seeds, green bananas, and even popcorn.
  • Start checking labels on products like rice, pasta, cereal, etc. – choose the higher fibre options. A product with at least 6g of fibre per 100g is considered high in fibre.11https://irishheart.ie/news/heart-of-the-matter-facts-on-fibre/
  • Use our 30g Fibre Meal Plan as a guide!

Check out our recipe section for high-fibre, gut-healthy dishes to help you reach your 30g a day 🙂

References

Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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