When you think of the important macro nutrients for health, carbohydrates, protein and fats usually come to mind but fibre is often forgotten about. Could it be the missing link to optimal body composition, smaller waistlines, fat loss and disease prevention?
How does fibre work?
Fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Because dietary fibre passes through the body it provides little or no energy (calories/kJ), however it can delay stomach emptying helping us feel full and satiated and promote regular bowel movements; making adequate fibre intake an essential part of a healthy diet. Research suggests fibre can reduce some cancers (particularly colon cancer), heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
• Gut health: Fibre helps keep our bowels regular, adds bulk to stools, and can help prevent haemorrhoids and other issues/conditions related to digestive health. Insoluble fibre is indigestible and ends up in your colon, feeding and promoting the health & growth of good bacteria, in turn creating a healthy functioning digestive system. Current research is continually finding that gut health is linked to a number of diseases, inflammation, weight issues, hormonal issues, mental health, and much more.
• Weight management: Foods rich in soluble fibre attract water, forming a gel-like substance in the gut; this delays stomach emptying, keeping you fuller for longer. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to your meals, helping you feel satiated.
• Lowers cholesterol: Soluble fibre binds to LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) in the blood, aiding its excretion.
• Stabilising blood sugar: Because soluble fibre delays stomach emptying, the entry of glucose into the bloodstream is slower and steadier, meaning no blood sugar spike. This makes it especially beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
How much fibre do I need?
The National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) that’s sets the recommended daily intakes of nutrients for Australia and New Zealand recommends the adequate intake (AI) of fibre to be:
• 25g of fibre/day for women 19+
• 30g of fibre/day for men 19+
Everyone responds differently to fibre depending on your digestive health. When aiming to increase fibre intake, it’s important to increase in small amounts weekly, as a sudden high increase in fibre could do quite the opposite to what you are aiming for! It’s really important to drink adequate amounts of water daily to keep your digestion moving.
Where do I get fibre from?
All wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables all contain various amounts of fibre. Chia seed and flax seed are also an excellent source of fibre. The best sources of soluble fibre include oats, legumes and beans, citrus fruits, okra and eggplant. Insoluble fibre is found in bran, brown rice and other wholegrains and root vegetable skin.
Written by Tristen Van Der Kley
Balanced Body Nutrition
IG: @balanced.body.nutrition https://www.instagram.com/balanced.body.nutrition/
Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. & Crowe, T. (2014). Understanding Nutrition. Cengage Learning.