WHAT DOES FIBRE DO FOR US?
Dietary fibre, which is obtained solely from foods of plant origin, plays a vital role in the digestive process.
Foods that are high in dietary fibre often take longer to eat, and they increase the feeling of fullness after a meal because they slow down the passage of food through the intestine.
This improves the body’s blood-sugar response because fibre slows the rate at which glucose is released from food. This, in turn, slows the rise of blood-sugar levels so that less insulin is released into the bloodstream.
In addition, because fibre-rich foods increase the feeling of fullness, they can help with weight control.
TOP TIP - Next time you’re in the staff restaurant, ask for wholemeal bread and notice how you feel fuller for longer.
IS ALL FIBRE GOOD FIBRE?
In general, yes. Fibre is your friend!
There are two main types:
This is the type of fibre that dissolves in water such as whole grains including oats, barley, and rye, fruits, vegetables and pulses.
The inclusion of soluble fibre in the diet slows the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, such as starch, into simple sugars, such as glucose. This can prevent unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels that can ultimately lead to diabetes in the long-term.
During digestion, soluble fibre forms a gel-like mass that binds cholesterol to the stool which over time, can help to lower blood cholestrol levels.
Insoluble fibre, sometimes called ‘roughage’, can’t dissolve in water and occurs naturally in things like brown rice, wholemeal bread, whole-grain cereals, seeds, pulses, and in the skins of vegetables
It is not digested or absorbed by the body, but it works hard in your digestive system instead.
Including insoluble fibre in your daily diet will help to keep the gastrointestinal tract clean and promote regular bowel movements. It does this by drawing water into the stools, making them larger and softer, and easier to pass.
7 WAYS TO UP YOUR FIBRE INTAKE
If you plan to increase your fibre intake, do so gradually to give your system time to adjust. As you increase your intake, drink plenty of water to balance that absorbed by the fibre. The tips below can help you meet your recommended intake.
- Eat more vegetables, either raw or steamed. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli are particularly high in fibre.
- Eat more fruit with the skin and seeds, such as apples, pears, and berries.
- Choose high-fibre breakfast cereals, cold or hot.
- Add rolled oats or canned beans to casseroles, or use rolled oats for crumble toppings and stuffings.
- Eat whole-grain products, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, and biscuits made from wholemeal flour rather than white flour.
- Add wheatgerm or oats to pancakes, meatballs or burgers.
- Use cereal in place of nuts or in place of flour when making biscuits.
KEEPING YOU HEALTHY
By promoting bowel regularity and keeping the gastrointestinal tract clean, inclusion of insoluble fibre in your diet may reduce the risk of developing conditions such as diverticular disease and constipation.
Studies have also shown that a high fibre diet can help prevent diabetes and, as a result of the activity of gut flora, reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. This cancer is rare in countries where the traditional diet consists mainly of cereals, fruits, and vegetables
TOP TIP - If you regularly eat a chocolate bar to keep going, swap it for a flapjack or cereal bar.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
The bacteria in the large intestine, known as ‘gut flora’, can break down some of the chemical bonds in fibre that are resistant to the digestive enzymes. People who eat plenty of fibre have healthy colons teeming with millions of these bacteria.
Researchers have suggested that the action of gut flora on fibre creates an acidic environment in the colon that decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, currently the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK.
TOP TIP - If you notice a change in your bowel habits that lasts longer than 4 weeks, get checked by your doctor.
HOW MUCH FIBRE DO YOU NEED?
According to the latest government guidelines, your total fibre intake should be 18g per day, depending on your age and gender.
Most adults in the UK, however, get less than 12g of fibre each day.
In order to ensure an adequate intake of both soluble and insoluble fibre, you should include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your daily diet.
TOP TIP - Check the labels on breakfast foods or ready meals and look for wholegrain ingredients and natural fruits.