Kristy Coleman, registered nutrition and gut health enthusiast sheds the light on fibre, why we need and where we can find it in our every day diets.
Fibre isn’t the most attractive of topics but it is fundamental for your health. We need 30g of fibre a day but with the increased consumption of processed foods, lack of fruit and vegetables and popularity of a low carbohydrate diet, most people in the UK aren’t getting enough, with the average intake being just 19g per day.
What is it?
Dietary fibre is the component of plant based foods that cannot be digested by your enzymes and is void of calories of nutrients. Fibre has many important uses in the body such as:
• bulks out and softens your stool by retaining water, which supports gut transit time and prevents constipation (you should be having at least one bowel movement a day);
• certain types of fibre can be fermented by beneficial gut bacteria, which produce short chain fatty acids, which are a source of energy and also have other health benefits;
• slows down the breakdown of sugars found in carbohydrates, which helps stabalise your energy levels;
• promotes an environment favourable to beneficial gut bacteria;
• a diet high in fibre can reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.
If we don’t get enough in our diets, it can result in constipation, decreased the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria and increased risk of developing certain health conditions.
Why is fibre so important?
There are two types of fibre:
1. Soluble – this is the type of fibre your beneficial bacteria ferments, which increases the bulk and softness of your stools. Sources: oats, lentils and beans, vegetables and fruits (in the whole form, not juiced)
2. Insoluble – this type of fibre isn’t fermentable and passes through your gut largely unchanged but absorbs water, which increase gut transit time and the bulk of your stool. Sources: vegetables and fruits (with the skin on), nuts and whole grains.
How to get more fibre into your diet?
The good news is that lots of plant based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibres. An easy way to include more fibre in your diet is to simply eat more vegetables and fruit (in that order!). While guidelines state we should be aiming for 5 portions of vegetables and fruit, new research shows we need closer to 10, so aim to have 5 portion a day as a minimum!
Easy swaps to help you get more fibre in your diet:
|Swap …||For this…*||Approximate fibre per portion|
|White pasta||Wholegrain pasta (80g, dry)
Lentil pasta (80g, dry)
|White bread/pita||Brown pitta (1 pitta)
Rye bread (1 slice/25g)
Sweet potato (1 medium / 160g)
|White rice||Brown rice (125g, cooked)||3g|
|Snacks such as chocolate covered rice cakes, cakes, biscuits||Pear and 1 tsp almond butter
Banana or apple
Hummus (25g) and carrot batons (1 large carrot/2 medium)
|3.5g (pear), 0.5g (almond butter)
1.8g (hummus), 1.9g (carrots)
|Cornflakes||Porridge (40g), sunflower seeds (25g) with berries (80g)||3.3g (oats), (sunflower seeds) 1.68g (berries)|
|Croutons in a salad||Portion of lentils (80g / ¼ tin)
Chickpeas (80g / ¼ tin)
|Chips||Portion of broccoli (100g)
Portion of carrots (100g)
*If you think your diet is low in fibre, build up your fibre intake slowly.