We’ve All Heard of Fibre and Know That We Need It…But Do We Know Why?
Dietary fibre is a carbohydrate that our body can’t digest. Now, hearing “indigestible” sounds like a bad thing, right? Not in this case. Fibre is an essential part of our diets that essentially helps you pass normal, healthy poo.
Fibre passes through your digestive system relatively intact - through your stomach, small intestine and colon and then out of your body into the toilet (or wherever you choose to go).1
Benefits of Fibre for the Body
The Bristol Stool Chart helps us to understand what is happening in our digestive system based on what we can see.2 Type 3 and Type 4 are generally good examples of what a healthy bowel movement will look like.
Fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. The bigger the poo, the easier it is to pass, which means you’re less likely to suffer from constipation. If you have diarrhoea, consuming fibre will help to solidify your poo, as it absorbs water and makes it bulkier, so, therefore, less runny.
Helping bowel movements isn’t all fibre good for. Having a diet that contains a good dose of fibre lowers our risk of LOADS of health issues.
Evidence shows that eating plenty of fibre reduces our risk of well-known issues such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Evidence also shows that getting enough fibre reduces the risk of other cancers such as colon and breast cancer and diverticular disease.3
How Much Should I Be Eating?
“The NHS Live Well, Eat Well” scheme tells us that in the UK, we aren’t eating enough fibre. In 2015, the average UK adult was eating 18g of fibre a day, but the average adult would benefit from 30g per day of fibre. If you’re 11-16, you need about 25g, 5-11 years need 20g and 2-5’s need 15g.3
As with most more specific food recommendations, there’s a difference in how much men and women should consume for a healthy diet.
The Institute for Medicine suggests for women under 50, 25 grams is the optimum daily consumption of fibre. For men, 38 grams is better for a healthy diet. For over 50’s, this decreases to 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.1
What Can I Eat To Get More Fibre?
Well, the first thing to know is that fibre comes in two forms.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material. This kind of fibre is found in oats, peas, beans, and fruits and vegs like apples, carrots and citrus fruits4
Insoluble fibre is the one that gets your digestive system moving - increasing the bulk of poo and regulating your movements. If you struggle with constipation or irregular bowel movements, this is what you should be looking for. You can find insoluble fibre in foods such as whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, green beans, potatoes and cauliflower.4
How Do I Include It In My Diet?
Breakfast is a great place to start. High-fibre breakfast cereals like a 2 biscuit serving of Weetabix (3.8g of fibre), a 64 gram serving of porridge oats (9g of fibre) or a 52 gram serving of Shredded Wheat (6g of fibre) will give you a chunk of the fibre you need to be hitting that 30-gram goal.5
Switching out white bread for wholemeal or granary bread is another quick and easy change to up your fibre intake. By the gram, wholemeal packs a substantial amount of fibre more than white.
Per 100g, wholemeal bread contains around 7g of fibre, with white bread coming in at only 2.9g of fibre. Your average slice of bread weighs in at 38g, so a wholemeal bread sandwich for lunch can get you another chunk of that daily intake goal.6
For dinners or hearty lunches, potatoes, beans, lentils, brown rice and wholewheat pasta are fantastic sources of fibre.3 The average baked potato with the skin on comes in at 4 grams of fibre. A portion of brown rice (195 grams) contains 3.4 grams of fibre.
You may be surprised at just how much fibre is in fruit and veg. In terms of fibre, an apple comes in at 4.4 grams, a pear has 9.13 grams, and half an avocado has 6.5 grams.7
1 bell pepper, a portion of cauliflower or a portion of carrot all clock in at 2 grams of fibre.8 Including more fruit and vegetables into your meals or snacks can make a huge difference to the amount of fibre you are consuming.
So in summary, fibre is a great way to regulate your digestion, help prevent health issues and is relatively easy to include in your diet. By making dietary adjustments, you can make yourself more comfortable in day to day life by helping out your digestive system, and begin reducing your chances of health issues occurring.