What’s all the fuss about the F word? And why are so many of us doing it wrong? Disclosure: the F word may not be what you expect. Fibre is an important nutrient that has become neglected and forgotten in this day and age with all our processing of food. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve read The First I’m all about easy eating healthy with everything in moderation (yes including chocolate), but I also think it’s important that we think about what we are putting into our bodies. Fibre is such an important nutrient to keep our digestive system and the rest of our body happy and healthy. When we’re filling up on high calorie, low fibre options it’s hard to fit fibre into your day. Most of us Aussies don’t eat nearly enough fibre as recommended. Adults should be eating around 25-30g fibre a day, but it’s hard when you don’t know where to start.
What is fibre and where is it found?
Fibre is the roughage that we find in foods like wholegrains, fruits, vegetables. There are two main kinds of fibre in foods and we need to eat sources of both for our bodies to reap the benefits.
The first is soluble fibre. Soluble fibre absorbs water as it passes through your gut, helping waste pass through the gut more easy. Soluble fibre also slows the emptying process allowing more nutrients to be absorbed. Soluble fibre can be found in foods like nuts, fruits like apples and oranges and wholegrains like oats. Insoluble fibre doesn’t absorb any water, but instead adds bulk to waste and helps prevent constipation by keeping your bowel movements regular. Insoluble fibre can be found in the skins of fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds and in wholegrains like brown rice and wholegrain bread. But why the fuss? Why is fibre so important?
What can fibre do for you?
#1. Fibre helps with weight control
Not only are high fibre foods usually more bulky and therefore filling, but fibre helps to slow the emptying process in your stomach, making you feel fuller for longer and less likely to reach for that ‘special occasion’ food. High-fibre foods also tend to have less energy (calories).
Tip for weight control: Eating veggies first at a meal can help to fill you up on fewer calories before you gorge on the more calorie dense main part of your meal.
#2. Fibre is good for your heart health
Fibre helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. When blood cholesterol levels are high it can lead to fats being deposited along the walls of the blood vessels which can end up causing blockages. Fibre helps to remove cholesterol from the body by binding to a product called bile in your gut (which is made from cholesterol by the body to digest fats) and then removing it from your body.
#3. Fibre is good for your gut
Fibre helps to keep the digestive system healthy as it helps food pass through the gut, removing waste from your body. Fibre also helps to produce those good bacteria in your gut that act like superheroes, protecting your gut from nasties. Think Marvel’s Avengers and DC’s Justice League. Fibre also helps to reduce the risk of some cancers such as colon cancer.
#4. Fibre keeps your blood sugar levels stable
We know it’s important to have glucose for our brain and cells to function, but are those sugar highs deliriously delightful or detrimental? When we eat refined carbohydrates like chips and lollies, it spikes our blood sugar levels too high too fast which can be dangerous if it happens on and on again for a long time. The good thing is, when we eat carbohydrate foods that are high in fibre, the fibre helps to slow the breakdown and absorption of the carbohydrate to glucose. This means you have a slower and more steady absorption of glucose, allowing your body time to allocate it to the right places.
#5. Fibre helps to prevent other disorders
Following a diet lower in fibre means you’re missing out on the life-saving benefits mentioned above. It also means you may have a higher risk of developing uncomfortable gut disorders like constipation, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome and bowel cancer. Jump on the fibre band-wagon before it’s too late!
Easy ways to up your fibre intake
#1 Swap from white bread to wholemeal or wholegrain
White bread is quite refined which means a lot of the fibre from the grain is unfortunately refined out of the final product. Wholemeal or wholegrain breads on the other hand are less refined and made from more parts of the grain which means more fibre!
Tip: Not sure if you’re ready to give up white bread? Try choosing a fortified high fibre white bread or alternate eating white bread and wholemeal bread on different days of the week.
#2. Eat more fruits and veggies and keep the skins on
The skins of fruits and veggies are often packed with fibre. Now I’m not suggesting you eat banana peel and orange rind, but leaving the skin on those carrots or potatoes are a great extra boost of fibre – every little bit counts! Not sure how to eat more fruit and veg? Check out my post on how to fit more fruit and veg into your day without eating handfuls of kale.
#3. When buying packaged foods like breads and cereals, choose ones with higher fibre
When you’re shopping for packaged foods like bread and cereals, have a look at the nutritional panel (usually on the side or back of the package). For more fibre, choose ones with at least 3g of fibre or more per serve.
Fun Fact: When comparing similar foods, the health star rating takes into account the amount of fibre in products like muesli bars or cereals. Have a look at the health star rating next time you’re trying to decide between similar breads or cereals.
Make sure when you are upping your fibre intake that you are also drinking more water! When you eat more fibre it is also important to drink a lot more water to flush everything through – we don’t want the embarrassment or discomfort of everything getting stuck! Help your body to be a happy little vegemite and include more fibre in your diet today!
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