Fibre is the magical thing that keeps your digestive tract in a healthy working order. It does this by slowing down digestion, reducing the spike in blood sugar levels after eating and keeping you feeling fuller for longer. It is also a key element in elevating your gut health.
The health benefits of fibre are prolific and are too often underestimated. The NHS (2023) suggest as few as 9% of Brits are achieving the recommended fibre intake of 30g per day. It’s not about eating a high-fibre diet, it’s about having a diet with enough fibre.
Read on to discover more about fibre and learn how to pack your diet with it. Or download my FREE 7 day fibre packed meal plan here.
Types of Fibre
You might have heard about the two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that helps to make your stools soft. It’s found in foods like oats.
- Insoluble fibre is the opposite as it doesn’t dissolve in water, so it can only be partially broken down by digestion. It helps to push things through your digestive tract promoting the regular movement of bowel movements.
The two types vary in their health benefits; however most foods contain a mix of both, and it is important that your diet does as well. This balance will happen naturally as you incorporate fibre-rich foods into your diet and I therefore recommend my clients view fibre as a singular entity for ease.
A Note On Fibre & Constipation
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate most commonly mentioned as a reliever of constipation, as it aids the passing of stool by increasing its weight and size and softening it, making it easier to pass.
Whilst constipation is a sign that you might not be getting enough fibre, a steady, fibre-packed diet remains vital for a healthy gut, even if you are passing stools regularly.
Benefits Of Dietary Fibre
A fibre-packed diet is associated with multiple health benefits, but a key factor is the role it plays in maintaining good gut health. Fibre feeds and balances the bacteria in your gut, aiding its diversity and multiplicity. This provides the best conditions for your gut microbiome to flourish, which is vital to aid digestion, ensuring your body can absorb all of the nutrients you are eating.
But this isn’t all. A systematic review of studies investigating the relationship between carbohydrate quality and health has identified further benefits (Reynolds et al., 2019).
- Maintaining bowel health by lowering your risk of developing haemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon, alongside lowering the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Lowering cholesterol levels, and has other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Controlling blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Aiding weight loss as high-fibre foods tend to be more filling, keeping you satisfied for longer.
How To Increase Your Fibre Intake
So, now we know why you should be getting enough fibre in your diet, now is time to move onto the how, perhaps the more challenging part!
Whilst female adults are recommended to have 25g of fibre per day, and men 30g, don’t get too focussed on this number. Instead, visualise your fibre intake in servings. Each day, aim to have:
- At least 3 servings of wholegrain foods, pulses or beans.
- At least 3 servings of vegetables.
- At least 2 servings of fruit.
Due to the varied levels of fibre in all foods, this might mean that some days you may eat less, or even more. I have included the fibre content of some common high-fibre foods below for reference. However, if you are eating a varied diet, this general rule will get you on the right path to eating your daily fibre allowance.
Remember, eat the rainbow, a great concept which was developed by Dr Chatterjee to encourage you to eat as many different fruits and vegetables as possible.
Finally, identify a high fibre food as one that has more than 6g of fibre per 100g. Look out for this on food labels.
What you must remember is that your diet is unique to you.
A healthy gut is about listening to your body and nourishing it in a manageable and sustainable way for your lifestyle. Every small increase in fibre in your diet is a step in the right direction, this does not need to be an immediate change!
In fact, switching to a high-fibre diet suddenly can have undesired effects, so increase your fibre intake slowly. If it is introduced too rapidly, you may notice symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and gas.
Lastly, make sure you are drinking enough water to aid the health benefits of a fibre-packed diet as fibre draws water into the bowel, meaning it could make you feel dehydrated.
NHS, 2023- https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/digestive-health/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/
Reynolds et al., 2019 –https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31809-9/fulltext