A high fibre diet has been shown to help with heart disease, colon and gastrointestinal problems, obesity and diabetes. In the UK very few people actually hit the recommended fibre target of 25-35g per day. The reason for this is that the best way to hit your fibre target is through eating lots of vegetables and fruit – and sadly in most people’s diet this is lacking or very low in quantity.
When I talk fibre with clients they first think of brown bread and wheat germ as high in fibre. However, it’s much easier and healthier to hit your target through vegetables, fruit, oats, legumes, nuts and seeds. This means that you get a mixture of the different types of fibre.
How does fibre promote health?
It helps to encourage the optimal passage of food through the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre, such as cellulose from plants, attracts water as it passes through the digestive tract and helps with ensuring that transit time is optimal. This ensures that we don’t suffer from diarrhoea or constipation.
Fibre also helps with the regulation of blood sugar levels. Although fibre increases the rate of transit through the digestive tract, it slows gastric emptying. This means that blood glucose levels rise more gradually.
Studies have shown better blood sugar control when healthy levels of fibre are consumed.
There are numerous cardiovascular benefits associated with a higher fibre intake. The most studied is the effect of fibre on blood cholesterol levels.
Soluble fibre (such as oats and pectin) is able to bind to cholesterol in the intestine and prevent its uptake in the body. Additionally, blood pressure control is better with a higher fibre intake.
Fibre also plays a part in feeding your beneficial bacteria. A diet high in fibre creates a friendly environment in the gut for the good guys to thrive. A low fibre diet results in an overgrowth of the bad bacteria and a lower percentage of lactobacillus (the good guys).
A diet low in fibre could help fuel the development of obesity. Dietary fibre plays a role in preventing obesity by increasing the amount of necessary chewing and so therefore slowing down the eating process, increasing faecal calorie loss, improving blood sugar control and increasing satiety (the feeling of fullness) after a meal.
So how do you hit your fibre needs?
Overall the best way to get fibre is from a mixture of sources such as oats, lentils, beans, seeds, fruits and lightly cooked or raw vegetables. Much of the fibre in vegetables is destroyed by cooking and so you are best eating your vegetables with plenty of crunch to them. Eat at least 6-8 portions of vegetables a day and 1-2 portions of fruit. Eat wholefoods such as whole grains, lentils, beans and avoid white, refined and heavily processed foods which have much of the fibre stripped out of them.
For rough examples of fibre content of some foods see below:
• 1 carrot = 3g fibre
• 100g avocado = 6g fibre
• ½ cup of oats = 9g fibre
• 1 cup cooked lentils = 4g fibre
• 1 cup of raspberries = 8g fibre
• 100g almonds = 12g fibre
• 2 tablespoon chia seeds = 11g fibre.