you probably do need more fibre: here’s why
Fibre; the roughage in plant-based foods that can’t be broken down by the body, might not sound particularly sexy, but it’s essential for good health (1).
Fibre doesn’t get digested by the small intestine, and instead gets broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. As it moves through the large intestine and colon, fibre picks up and cleans out any waste build up (2). We need to maintain a consistent supply of fibre to ensure a healthy digestive system, however, most people in the UK aren’t getting the recommended 30g of fibre per day, with average intakes sitting at around 20g per day (3).
Time you upped your fibre intake? Here, we give you the lowdown on fibre and the easy ways to get more…
Why do we need fibre?
Fibre is vital to maintain a healthy, functioning gut. It can help to lessen the chances of constipation and keep us regular (4). Plus, fibre increases the good bacteria that’s found in our gut; this bacteria helps to support our immune system and reduce our risk of inflammatory disorders (5).
There’s even evidence to suggest that eating a diet rich in fibre has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke (6).
If you’re hoping to lose a few pounds, then fibre needs to be high up on your dietary agenda; research has found how fibre can actually help to promote weight loss (7).
There are two different types of fibre. Soluble fibre tends to be found in fruits, vegetables and pulses such as beans and lentils. When mixed with liquid, soluble fibre dissolves and forms a gel, helping to make our stools softer, and easier to pass through the gut (8). This can help with easing constipation. Soluble fibre can also help us to feel fuller as it moves slowly through the digestive system (9).
Insoluble fibre, which we get from grains and the skins of vegetables, absorbs water, adding more bulk to stools and helping to push them along through the intestines (10).
You’ll notice that liquid has a role in both types of fibre, so if you’re planning to up your fibre intake, it’s wise to ensure that you’re taking in more fluid too, just to help keep things running smoothly.
How to consume more fibre
Incorporating more fibre into your diet – whether you’re already eating 30g a day or not – isn’t hard, and there are some simple dietary tweaks you can make at each meal, to ensure you’re getting enough of the good stuff.
At breakfast, try a cereal with more fibre to kickstart your day. The Eat Natural High Fibre Granola contains 6.4g of fibre per 50g portion. Team this with some berries or other sliced fruit for an extra hit of fibre as well as other essential nutrients. Toast fiend? Choose wholemeal breads and try a fibre-filled topping such as sliced banana, avocado or nut butters. You could even sprinkle this with a tablespoon of linseeds which contains another 2g of fibre (11).
For lunch and dinner, include starchy carbs such as baked potatoes (with the skin on for extra fibre!), brown rice and wholemeal pastas, as well as other grains such as quinoa and bulgur wheat.
Pulses and legumes, including beans, lentils and chickpeas also provide a fibre punch and make a delicious base to stews and curries. You could even try switching half of the mince used in a curry, with lentils, to help hit your fibre quota.
Fruits and vegetables, should be considered at every meal, not just for their roughage, but also for the fact that they contain various vitamins and minerals which are important for our health (12). Try throwing extra veggies into spaghetti bolognese and other sauces.
When eating fruits with edible skin such as apples, keep the skin on where possible, as this is where you’ll find a big bulk of the fruit’s fibre. An average apple with the skin on contains 3.7g of fibre, however with the skin off, it contains considerably less with around 2.4g of fibre (13).
Love a snack? Enjoy unsalted nuts and seeds, oatcakes and vegetable sticks.
Eat Natural’s Fibre Packed Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt contains 6.9g per 100g, making it a high fibre snack choice.
A few fibre tips…
If you’re on a mission to increase your fibre intake, then it’s best to do it slowly. This helps to lower the chance of bloating and gas, which can occur as a result of too much fibre (14).
As well as this, spread your fibre out over the course of a day, and be sure to incorporate movement into your day. Again, this can help to lessen the chances of any unwanted side effects from fibre.