If there is one thing I could recommend in regards to your digestive health this week, it would be to add some fibre.
Am I talking about just having a bowl of Weetbix? The answer to this would be no (no offence Weetbix!)!!
Before we get into different fibre types and how to increase let’s talk about what is fibre and why we need to consume.
What is fibre??
Dietary fibre is the indigestible part of plant food.
There are 3 different types of dietary fibre available to add into our diets:
1. Insoluble fibre
Insoluble fibre absorbs water and promotes bowel motions. This fibre isn’t digested and absorbed through our intestines and is instead fermented by the bacteria in our large intestine to produce substances that are supportive for the gut lining. It also adds bulk to our stools to assist with elimination.
Food examples of insoluble fibre include: skin of fruits and veggies, wheat bran, rice bran, dried beans, seeds and nuts.
2. Soluble fibre
Soluble fibre holds a lot of water and forms a gel. It ferments in the large intestine and binds to fatty acids pulling out toxins, assists with irritable bowel, cholesterol and regulates blood sugar. Soluble fibre is gentler on the digestive tract than there fibre types.
Food examples include: oat bran, beans, nuts, lentils, flaxseeds, apples, carrots and chia seeds (although chia seeds also contain soluble fibre - confusing I know!).
3. Resistant starch
Resistant starch ferments in the gut and has beneficial effects on the cell wall and also on cholesterol.
Food sources include: whole grains especially, lentils, bananas, and potatoes once they have been cooked and cooled again!
Why do we need fibre?
Fibre as you will have seen above has multiple roles:
- regulate bowel motions and softens stools
- act as food for the gut microbiome
- protects the lining of our bowel
- increases cholesterol elimination through the bowels
- reduces inflammation
- supports weight loss by slowing down digestion, it is also filling when consumed and delays subsequent hunger
- regulates blood sugar by slowing down nutrient absorption, lowering the GI of the food consumed and improving insulin sensitivity.
Recommended Dietary Intake
It is recommended that women consume 25g of fibre daily and men 30g daily. Unfortunately, most diets that I see don’t come close to that figure which is why I recommend fibre rich diets so often in particular with digestive health!
As an example, a medium sized apple contains only 3g of fibre, so for men only 1/10th of your daily fibre content.
The other challenge with fibre is that anything refined or ‘white’ has had majority of the fibre removed so this includes white bread, pasta or white rice. We need to ensure we are consuming the whole grain versions, for example: brown rice or wholegrain bread.
So what should we eat?
‘As I said above, just getting your fibre from one source, although better than none, does not cover off all the benefits of fibre entirely. We need a range of fibre types to get the range of benefits but also to feed our microbiome a range of foods (they like variety just as much as we do ourselves!)
We want to have a range of fibre types daily:
- fruit and vegetables (skin on where possible) and in true form not as a juice.
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds
How could we do this across breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Here is an example of ways to incorporate more fibre however this is not the only ways, there are a multitude of ways to get more fibre in through the diet!
- chia pudding topped with nuts, seeds and fruit
- sautéed veggies with a form of protein
- baked beans on wholegrain bread
- porridge with nuts, seeds and banana
- wholegrain wrap with veggies and a form of protein
- salad with a mix of veggies, beans, seeds and some cooked and cooled potato
- veggie sticks with hummus
- handful of nuts and a piece of fruit
- apple and nut butter
- roast vegetables with protein
- lentil Dahl with added veggies
- roast potato (skin on) with veggie toppings
- noodles with lentil Bolognese
To supplement or not to supplement?
Ideally, you want to try and get your fibre needs in their entire form so from food.
In some circumstances I do use fibre supplements in clients however I do prefer Practitioner Only fibre supplements to support the gut microbiome. I always recommend you speak to a practitioner before supplementing your diet with nutrients such as fibre.
Still struggling with fibre?
Book a consult to find out how fibre can support you: you may need particular types or some assistance in getting the balance right for your microbiome initially.