What is fibre and where to get it from
The ABC show Catalyst had an interesting few episodes around gut health not too long ago. It appears that there may be a reason why alternative healthcare practitioners have been going on about fibre and gut health for years!
It is no secret that the food eaten in the typical Western diet is making us sick. This type of food is contributing to all sorts of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and maybe even depression or allergies. The types of bacteria that we contain in our gut may have implications for our health too and it is the kind of food we are eating that is influencing what kind of bacteria are present. To put it simply, bad food encourages the bad bacteria while good food encourages the good bacteria. The common factor between diet, bacteria and our health may in fact be fibre. Those who are eating high fibre diets may be enjoying longer and healthier lives as a results.
So what exactly do we mean by fibre? Fibre comes from plants and refers to the part of the plant that can’t be digested by us. And that is why it keeps our digestive system healthy. Although we can’t break it down it still passes through our digestive system and along the way it cleverly binds with bile acids (which are made from cholesterol) and sugars before they are all excreted together. Thus reducing the blood levels of both of these in our bodies. Fibre travelling through the digestive tract also keeps it working well and reduces the risk of diverticulitis, haemorrhoids, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
So how can we increase the amount of fibre in our diets to enjoy these health benefits? As expected, plant based foods are those which are naturally high in fibre. Eating foods that are whole and unprocessed or minimally processed maintains high fibre levels. It is desirable to eat at least 25-30 grams a day. The Catalyst episode was suggesting even higher amounts may be beneficial.
Fruit and vegetables (eaten rather than juiced) will provide good amounts of fibre to the diet. In particular strawberries, raspberries and dried figs all contain great amounts of fibre. Half a cup of raspberries contains 5 grams and 3 dried figs contain 10 grams! Another good reason to get our 5 serves of veggies and our 2 serves of fruit every day.
Wholegrains and cereals are also great sources. A slice of wholemeal bread may contain double the fibre of ordinary white bread. Choose whole grains such as brown rice, freekah and quinoa.
Legumes and beans are fantastic sources of fibre. Beans such as kidney or black beans can provide 20 grams of fibre in just 1 cup! Healthy burgers, soups, salads and dips are great ways to incorporate more of these into your diet. When cooking you can reduce the amount of meat used and add in some legumes or beans.
Snacking on a handful of nuts each day provides a boost of fibre as well as some of those lovely essential fatty acids which fight inflammation and keep our skin looking beautiful (amongst many other benefits).
Now that you have seen how easy it is to include more fibre in your diet, make sure you do to get all the healthy benefits from it!
By Fiona Joiner