Fibre is becoming more mainstream and increasingly recognised as a valuable part of our diets. Let’s take a look at what fibre is and how we can ensure we are getting enough in our diet.
What is fibre?
Fibre is a term used to describe plant-based carbohydrates. Unlike other carbohydrates, these carbohydrates are not digested in the small intestine and so reach the large intestine.
Fibre can be separated into two groups
- Soluble fibre
- Insoluble fibre
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a sticky gel which helps you form soft stools that are easy to pass. This type of fibre is found in food such as fruit and oats. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is difficult for the gut to digest. This fibre is still important as it adds bulk to your stools, making them heavier and easier to pass. This type of fibre can be found in wholegrains and nuts.
Why do we need fibre?
Fibre is important for the health of the digestive system as it supports gut transit time, reduces the risk of constipation and slows the absorption of sugars to support energy levels. Certain types of fibre can be fermented by gut microbes which produce short chain fatty acids, which provide energy for the gut and also enhance other areas of health. Fibre also promotes an environment favourable to those good gut bacteria. The nutrient helps to improve weight maintenance through managing appetite and energy levels.
Further research suggests sufficient fibre intake can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.
Where can we find fibre?
Fibre can be found in a variety of foods including
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals
- Wholewheat pasta
- Wholegrain bread
- Rye bread and other rye products
- Fruit – some examples include bananas, berries, plums, oranges and apples
- Vegetables – some examples include peas, root veg such as carrots and parsnips, sweetcorn, broccoli
- Beans and pulses including baked beans, hummus, chickpeas, lentils
- Potatoes with skin on – both white and sweet
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, linseed and chia seeds
So, how can we increase fibre in our diet?
- Start the day with a fibre filled breakfast
Oats are a great source of fibre as well as wholegrain cereals or bread. Adding fruit to your breakfast will boost the fibre content even more. This will fuel you for your day and help with a steady release of energy across the day.
2. Add beans, chickpeas or lentils to meals
Such as stews, curries or salads. Swap half mincemeat in a bolognese for lentils or add beans to chilli. Have a portion of fruit and/or veg with every meal.
3. Chose wholegrain
4. Swap white bread, rice or pasta for brown or wholegrain options. opt for wholegrain cereals too
5. Leave the skin on potatoes
This is where a lot of the fibre is
6. Include fruit or dried fruit in snacks
For example yogurt and dried fruit or fresh, apple and nut butter
7. Keep your freezer stocked up
Frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious, if not more, than their fresh counterparts.
8. Have fresh or canned fruit in natural juice for dessert
9. Add dried fruit to dishes such as curries, stews and salads
Remember it’s important to go slow if you’re increasing fibre in your diet. Go gradually to avoid tummy troubles and make sure you’re drinking enough water., aim for 6-8 glasses per day.