You’ve probably heard by now that fibre is pretty damn important! Yet most Australians are not getting enough.
While the word ‘fibre’ might sound a little bland – this cannot be further from the truth! The impact fibre has on your overall health should NOT be underestimated.
Understanding what fibre is, why it’s essential and how to make sure you’re getting enough is hugely important.
Before we dive any further, what actually is fibre?
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that humans are unable to digest. It is found in the plants we eat such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
When you eat fibre it travels undigested through the digestive tract to your large intestine (most nutrients don’t make it this far as they are digested and absorbed in the small intestine). It is the fact that fibre makes its way all the way to your large intestine (aka large bowel) that makes it so important to your health.
How does fibre impact gut health?
The relationship between fibre and gut health is a relatively new area of nutrition research and we are only beginning to scratch the surface in terms of understanding it’s impact on health.
Fibre promotes good digestive health, which is linked to the health of almost every other organ in the body from our heart, brain, kidneys, liver and skin.
The fact that fibre travels through your digestive system undigested and reaches the large intestine means that it reaches the community of trillions of microbes that look after us every day. Fibre is the best fuel (aka food) for these trillions of bacteria, which produce beneficial compounds that are responsible for keeping our guts (and body’s) healthy and happy.
The bottom line is more fibre = happy gut bugs!
What else does fibre do?
Along with supporting good gut health, a high fibre diet can assist with:
- Keeping your bowel movements regular
- Lowering cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and preventing it from being absorbed
- Stabilising blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose
- Helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer
Are you eating enough fibre?
According to the research…Probably not! The truth is that less than half of all Aussies are getting enough fibre in their diets due to the high consumption of overly processed foods.
The research recommends that we should aim for 30g of fibre every day for optimal health.
Here’s an example of what 30g of fibre might look like in a day:
- ½ cup natural muesli
- 2 wholegrain crispbreads (such as Ryvita Wholgrain)
- 1 apple (with skin) and 1 orange
- 2 cups mixed raw vegetables
- ¼ cup legumes e.g. chickpeas
To make sure you’re getting enough fibre in your diet, aim for the following every day:
- 2 pieces of fruit
- 5 serves of vegetables
- 4-6 serves of wholegrains
- 1-2 serves of nuts, seeds or legumes
Easy swaps to boost fibre in your diet:
- Make sure half your plate is filled with fibre rich foods at lunch and dinner
- Switch from white to wholegrain bread
- Keep the skin on your fruits and vegetables
- Sprinkle mixed seeds onto your breakfast bowl
- Use wholemeal products wherever you can (e.g. wholemeal flour)
- Enjoy a handful of nuts as a snack
- Eat more vegetarian meals (go meatless on Mondays!)
Gut Warning: It’s important to increase fibre intake slowly, especially if your diet is currently low in fibre. This is to prevent overwhelming your gut bugs and the onset of negative symptoms like gas, constipation and bloating. A slow increase will allow you and your healthy bacteria time to adjust to the higher-fibre diet. It’s also important to drink plenty of water (at least 8-9 cups) to prevent constipation and let fibre do it’s job
For more science-based nutrition articles, click here.