Fibre is an often overlooked part of our diet and its a part of our diet that offers huge benefits to our overall health.
Why do we need fibre in our diets?
Dietary fibre comes from the structural parts of plants and is therefore found only in plant-derived foods, for example, whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit. Not only do these foods provide fibre, but you get the benefit of their vitamins and minerals too.
Fibre is predominantly found in two different forms, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water. It is easily digested by colon bacteria and forms a gel. It is found in foods such as oats, legumes and citrus fruits. If you are suffering from diarrhoea, soluble fibre foods will help stools to form.
Insoluble fibres don’t dissolve in water (think sweetcorn!) or form gels, but this also means they can increase stool bulk. This leads to regular bowel movements and decreases risk of constipation.
How much fibre do we need every day?
The recommended daily intake of fibre for adults is:
- Females – 25g per day
- Males – 30g per day
What are the best sources of fibre?
Psyllium husk is one of the best sources of soluble fibre and this is often found in the health food aisle of most supermarkets. This can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on your cereal.
Leafy greens, fruit and cruciferous vegetables are good sources of insoluble fibre. Legumes are another good source.
Do you like fruit and vegetable juices? It’s important to be aware that the juicing process removes the fibre content (although you will still get lots of vitamins and minerals).
How can I tell if I am eating enough fibre?
A telltale sign that your diet is lacking in fibre is best monitored by your bowel movements. You should pass a stool one to three times per day every day to every other day. If you find that you pass a bowel movement less frequently, then you might want to reassess your intake of fibre.
With a healthy balanced diet rich in whole foods you should naturally find that you have all the fibre that you need.
What are the benefits of eating fibre?
Fibre has undergone lots of scientific studies and here are some of the key findings are that fibre helps;
- Lowers blood cholesterol by binding bile
- Slows glucose absorption
- Provides moisture to stools thus having a softening effect
- Increase stool bulking encouraging more regular bowel movements
- Helps weight management
- May help prevent colon cancer
- Helps prevent diabetes
Have you got a question that hasn’t been covered? You are more than welcome to contact me and I’ll see if it’s something that can feature in the series.
Whitney, E, Rolfes, SR, Crowe, T, Cameron-Smith, D & Walsh, A 2014, Understanding Nutrition: Australia and New Zealand Edition, 2nd edn, Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne.