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The Benefits of Fibre for your Gut & Overall Health

Fibre is often considered the unsung hero of our diets, quietly working its magic behind the scenes to support our health and well-being. Despite its lack of glamour, fibre plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health and preventing various chronic diseases.

In this article, we will explore the different types of fibre, their respective benefits, and why you should prioritize fibre-rich foods in your daily diet.

What is Fibre?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods. Unlike other carbohydrates, however, fibre isn't broken down and absorbed by our bodies. Instead, it passes relatively intact through our digestive system, playing a crucial role in maintaining our digestive health, overall well-being and aiding in the smooth movement of food and bodily wastes.

There are two main types of fibre: soluble and insoluble, each with unique characteristics and health benefits.

Soluble Fibre

Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It is easily digested (fermented) by the bacteria in the colon and is invaluable for the elimination of toxins from the body. It is also known for its ability to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels.

  1. Heart Health: Soluble fibre has been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. It achieves this by binding with cholesterol particles in the digestive system and preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

  2. Blood Sugar Control: Soluble fibre slows down the absorption of sugar, helping to stabilize blood glucose levels after meals. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing insulin resistance

  3. Immune System Support: Soluble fibre acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria play a crucial role in immune function, helping to protect against harmful pathogens and support overall immune health.

Foods Rich in Soluble Fibre:

  • Oats

  • Barley

  • Lentils

  • Apples

  • Strawberries

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Citrus fruits

Insoluble Fibre

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system relatively unchanged. It adds bulk to the stool and helps to regulate bowel movements, promoting regularity and preventing constipation.

  1. Digestive Health: Insoluble fibre increases the weight, size and softness of the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract. This aids in the prevention of constipation and helps promote overall digestive health.

  2. Weight Management: Foods high in insoluble fibre help you feel fuller for longer, supporting weight management.

Foods Rich in Insoluble Fibre:

  • Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa)

  • Vegetables & skins (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)

  • Fruits with skin (apples, pears)

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)

Health Benefits of Fibre

The benefits of fibre extend beyond digestive health. Adequate fibre intake has been associated with:

  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: A diet rich in fibre can help reduce the risk of various chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

  • Immune Health: Fibre acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which play a crucial role in digestion, immune function, and overall health.

  • Weight Management: High-fibre foods help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

  • Diverticular Disease: Insoluble fibre can help prevent diverticular disease by promoting regular bowel movements and reducing pressure in the colon.

Recommended Daily Intake

So, how much fibre do we need each day to reap these health benefits? According to dietary guidelines, the recommended daily intake of fibre varies based on age and gender. However, as a general guideline:

  • Adults should aim for around 25-30 grams of fibre per day.

  • I recommend 35 grams a day to help reach optimal health benefits

This is easily calculated out at 6-8 servings of vegetables and 2-3 pieces of fruit daily, or when plating a meal, simply think, 1 part meat protein 3 parts vegetable.

It's essential to gradually increase your fibre intake and drink plenty of water to prevent digestive discomfort.

Incorporating Fibre into Your Diet

Certain foods are richer in one form of fibre than the other so it is important to include a range in the daily diet.  The refining process determines how much fibre is left in processed foods and for this reason eating whole natural foods is best.  

Here are some simple tips to help you incorporate more fibre-rich foods into your daily diet:

  1. Start the Day Right: Choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal, such as oatmeal and top it with fresh fruit and nuts, or go savoury and start with veg

  2. Snack Smart: Opt for fibre-rich snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, or nuts instead of processed snacks.

  3. Go Whole Grain: Swap refined grains for whole grains whenever possible. Choose whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta.

  4. Include Legumes: Add beans, lentils, and chickpeas to soups, salads, and casseroles for an easy fiber boost.

  5. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables: Aim to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks throughout the day.

What happens with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and increased fibre?

Increasing fibre intake can exacerbate symptoms in some individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), leading to bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. It's important to introduce fibre gradually and monitor its effects on your symptoms to find the right balance that works for your digestive system. Partially hydrolysed guar gum or psyllium husk may be a convenient way to increase your fibre intake while addressing your IBS.

Fibre is undeniably a powerhouse nutrient with numerous health benefits. From promoting digestive health to reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, fibre plays a vital role in our overall well-being. By understanding the types of fibre and incorporating fibre-rich foods into our diet, we can harness the power of fibre and pave the way for a healthier, happier life. So, the next time you're planning your meals, remember to give fibre the attention it deserves—it's a small change that can make a big difference!

Your body will thank you for it!


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