In the UK we are recommended to consume 30g of fibre a day but on average we are consuming much less than this at about 18g a day.
At The Food Doctor we understand the importance of fibre in our diets and therefore ensure our range of snacks and pitta contain a good amount of fibre. We include plenty of seeds, nuts and beans but also pectin (apple fibre) and fructo-oligosaccharides, which are high-fibre sources that have been extracted from their natural source.
I thought it be great to tell you a little bit about what exactly fibre is, where it comes from and why we need more of it in our diets.
What is fibre and where does it come from?
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. It cannot be completely broken down by the body so passes through to your gut. There are lots of different types of fibre but there are two main groups; soluble and insoluble. Most fibre-rich foods contain a mixture of both, but are usually richer in one type than the other.
Soluble fibre is found in grains such as oats, barley and rye, in beans and pulses such as lentils and soya beans, in fruits such as bananas and apples, and in root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Insoluble fibre on the other hand is found in wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, nuts, seeds, high-fibre breakfast cereals, and some fruits and vegetables with their skins on.
Both types of fibre help to regulate the digestive system. Soluble fibre absorbs water to form a gel-like substance which helps to slow digestion (think of porridge), whereas insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water and therefore passes through your gut without being broken down. It adds bulk to the stools and helps food move more quickly through your digestive system.
Why do we need fibre in our diets?
The most noticeable benefit of fibre is on our digestive health. It helps keep our digestive system running smoothly and helps avoid problems such as constipation.
Fibre can also act as a prebiotic. This means it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, which is important for a strong immune system. Our guts are so important to our overall health that experts are now even referring to it as our ‘second brain’.
Soluble fibres, such as beta-glucans found in oats and pectin’s found in apples, have been found to reduce blood cholesterol levels, which will help lower your risk of heart disease.
Fibre-rich foods also often have a lower glycaemic index (the rate at which a food raises blood glucose levels) which helps to control appetite and stabilise blood glucose levels.
How do I get more fibre in my diet?
By making small changes to your diet you can easily increase your fibre intake.
If you eat cereal in the morning, try to ensure you are eating a high-fibre cereal such as porridge or plain shredded wheat. When it comes to bread, pasta and rice, ensure you choose the wholegrain option. When cooking potatoes, make sure you leave their skins on. Add more pulses like beans and lentils to your meals, you could try them in salads, curries and stews. Eat more fruit and vegetables, try to include veg at each meal and enjoy fruit with some yogurt for dessert.
If you like to snack, pick a fibre-rich option such as our snack mixes, crisp thins or fruit goodness bars. You can also easily bump up the fibre content of a meal by sprinkling on seeds and nuts such as our Super Seeds or Raw Power Mixes.
I would recommend increasing your fibre intake gradually so as to avoid bloating or flatulence. If you have a digestive disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may need to modify your intake of fibre. When increasing your fibre intake it’s important to make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids. We recommend you speak to your GP or a qualified nutritionist if you've been experiencing digestive problems.
I hope you find this information helpful and have begun to understand why fibre is important in our diets.
Speak again soon,
Gemma, The Food Doctor nutritionist