Dietary advice tends to come thick and fast with research increasing and becoming ever more confusing. Don’t eat butter, do eat butter; avoid coffee, drink coffee; avoid coconut, eat coconut – the list goes on. But there are some staples, and one of these is the importance of fibre in our diets.
Fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes. Fibre helps to regulate our digestive systems by maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol and keeping bowel movements regular. Fibre also helps us feel fuller for longer, and is therefore useful for anyone wishing to lose weight. It can also assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who followed a diet high in fibre lowered their cholesterol levels by nearly 30 per cent in just four weeks.
The Australian Heart Foundation recommends a daily intake of 25–30g of fibre, but on average, most Australians consume less, around 20–25g daily. Breakfast is a great place to add fibre into your diet. Try a high fibre cereal with > 5g fibre per 100g, switch from white bread to wholegrain for your toast, or added a sliced banana to your cereal.
There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble fibre, and we need both to maintain good digestive health. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and one of its major roles is to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, dried beans, lentils and peas.
Insoluble fibre is not digested or dissolved at all as it moves through the digestive tract. It is also referred to as ‘roughage’ and speeds up the movement and processing of waste from the body. This fibre is found in the seeds and skins of fruit, wholegrain foods and brown rice.
Healthline.com has these handy tips to add fibre to your diet:
- Include vegetables in meals and, to ensure you eat enough of them, consume them before anything else on your plate.
- Snack on fruit and popcorn, but hold off on the salt and butter. One small pear has five grams of fibre, whereas a cup of watermelon has only one.
- Choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains are minimally processed, leaving the whole grain intact. In contrast, refined grains have been stripped of their vitamin-containing germ and fibre-rich hull. In addition to oatmeal or brown rice, try amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, farro, freekeh, millet, quinoa, or wheat berries.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not juice. Proponents of juicing say juice is a good way to incorporate a lot of vegetables into your diet. But juices have been stripped of fibre, leaving only a concentration of carbs, specifically in the form of sugar.
- Eat avocados. They are incredibly nutritious, rich in healthy and mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Half an avocado delivers five grams of fibre.
- Snack on nuts and seeds and add to recipes. Just 30g of almonds have three grams of fibre, are high in unsaturated fats, magnesium and vitamin E.
- Bake with high-fibre flours. Consider whole-wheat, coconut, chickpea, buckwheat and barley flours, and almond and hazelnut meals.
- Eat berries when they’re in season. Berries with seeds are among the most fibre-rich fruits. Raspberries and blackberries have eight grams per cup while strawberries (three grams) and blueberries (four grams) are also good choices.
- Eat plenty of legumes. Beans, dried peas and lentils are rich in fibre, as well as protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals. A cup of cooked beans can deliver up to 75 per cent of your daily fibre needs.
- Leave the peel/skin on apples, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. When you peel fruits and vegetables, you often remove half the fibre. For instance, one small apple has four grams of fibre, but a peeled apple has only two grams.
Are you getting enough fibre in your day? What health benefits have you noticed after increasing your fibre intake?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.