It’s time to make gut health cool. It’s time to make fibre cool. Although it is impossible to talk about the wonders of fibre without getting frank about your digestion, your intestines, and the gases that result! But if you didn’t produce gas, it would be a sign that something could be wrong, or that you’re not getting enough fibre in your diet.
Fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods, so we generally obtain all our fibre from plant rather than animal sources. As a general population, we don’t eat enough. We should be aiming for around 30g per day to get all the benefits from it, but we’re averaging around 18g.
Fibre acts via three main mechanisms: bulking, adding viscosity, and fermentation. Bulking fibres absorb water, thereby increasing stool weight, and adding viscosity thickens up your stool. Fermentable fibres are digested by our gut bacteria living in our large intestine, which produce short-chain fatty acids as metabolic by-products.
While we divide fibres into soluble and insoluble fibres, within these groups different fibres have different effects. This is why it’s good for our health to eat a variety of different foods and sources of fibre.
Eating fibre comes with a great many benefits. Stabilising blood sugar levels, reducing blood cholesterol levels, reducing blood triglyceride levels (both important for reducing risk of heart disease!). Increasing absorption of minerals from food, and increasing production of immune cells in the body.
All this amounts to eating plenty of fibre being linked to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. As fibre helps produce immune cells, it also decreases your risk of catching infectious diseases. So, eat your fibre! It’ll do you a world of good!
I should also mention that while fibre is amazing, it’s important not to increase your intake too quickly. Your microbiome needs time to adjust to changes, and doing things too quickly can mean developing symptoms like bloating or flatulence. But these are almost always temporary, and so aren’t worth worrying about!
The best source of fibre for us are grains! Wholegrains more so than white grains, but even white bread gives us a little fibre! Beans and lentils are also fantastic sources, and I recommend eating them at least a few times a week. An easy way to do this is replace half the meat in your chilli with black or kidney beans, or add lentils to your salad, or enjoy some hummus and wholegrain pitta. Potatoes may also get a bad reputation, but a lot of the fibre is right under the skin, so make sure you leave the skin on your jacket potatoes!
Finally, making sure you get your 5-a-day can add a significant amount of fibre to your diet as well. Ideally this should be a mixture of fruit and vegetables, and doesn’t matter if they’re fresh, frozen, canned, blended into a smoothie, cooked or raw.
You can try B.fresh Super Smoothies at www.b-fresh.co.uk
Words by Resident Nutritionist Plantbased Pixie www.plantbased-pixie.com
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