When it comes to nutrients that are vital for a healthy body, fibre is always part of the conversation. Despite this, many find it confusing to define and recognise fibre or the foods that contain them and how much is needed to reap the benefits.
Fibre, defined simply, is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your body. Fibre can either be insoluble or soluble with either playing different roles in supporting good health. Both are often found in the same foods.
Here is a quick guide on what fibre can do for you and how you can add this valuable nutrient to your diet:
This is the type of fibre you often associate as roughage or bulking agents. Insoluble fibre is found in the skins of foods and the seeds of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts. It doesn’t dissolve in water nor does it break down in the gut. It adds bulk to your digestive tract, which can help keep you regular.
This type of fibre is soft and absorbs water to form a gel-like substance inside your digestive tract. Soluble fibre is usually found in foods like oats, beans, fruits and avocados. It an have major effects on your health, metabolism and weight loss.
The Health Benefits
You want lots of good bacteria in your gut! It is estimated that you have around 100 trillion bacteria species (gut flora) living in your large intestine. They play an important role in your health, blood sugar levels, brain function, immunity and weight. The healthier you eat, the more good bacteria you are likely to have. Good bacteria needs fibre (mostly soluble) to thrive!
Fibre can help battle inflammation! The correlation between inflammation and disease and obesity is high. Long-term inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease. Inflammation has been shown to be a driver of obesity, hormone levels and weight gain.
Keeps You Regular:
Insoluble fibre bulks up your stool and acts like a broom, sweeping through you to ensure that you get everything out and keep things moving along as they should. Soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance that helps your stool pass easily through your body. Fibre is key for a healthy and regular digestive system.
The Weight Loss Benefits
To lose weight, you have to take in fewer calories than you burn. Fibre can help you feel fuller so that you eat less! Soluble fibre with high viscosity provides greater feeling of fullness than otherwise and is more likely to reduce your appetite and overall calorie intake. Viscosity is the thickness of a liquid i.e. honey has more viscosity than water. Viscose fibre increases the time it takes to digest foods because of its thickness moving through the digestive tract. The end result is a longer feeling of fullness.
The Fibre Foods
Foods High in Insoluble Fibre:
- Whole Grains: Wheat Bran
- Beans (Legumes): Kidney Beans
- Fruits: Raspberries
- Vegetables (with their skins on): Steamed Turnips, Okra or Green Peas
Foods High in Soluble Fibre and Viscosity:
- Fruits and (with their skins on): Pears
- Vegetable (with their skins on): Broccoli and Sweet Potatoes
- Grains: Oats and Bran
- Beans (Legumes): Lentils
- Nuts: Dry Roasted Peanuts
The American Heart Association recommends that the daily value for fibre is around 25 grams for adults, every single day.
A General Guideline:
Women under 50: ~25 grams/day
Women over 50: ~21 grams/day
Men under 50: ~38 grams/day
Men over 50: ~30 grams/day
Children ages 1-18: 4-31 grams/day
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should consume about 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories you consume. Calorie needs vary by your height, weight and activity level so adjust your fibre intake accordingly.
The Side Effects
Fibre is also known as “roughage,” and it gets plenty of attention as it passes through the stomach and intestines. If you eat more than 70 grams a day, your body will begin to tell you to eat less fibre. Fibre can bind to important minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc and prevent your system from absorbing these nutrients.
Signs and Symptoms You’ve Had Too Much of a Good Thing:
- Abdominal Pain
As long as you make sure to eat a fresh, whole food diet, drink lots of water and include the foods on this list into your diet, you should be getting plenty of fibre! Add fibre into your diet slowly so you don’t put your body into bulk overload. Fibre is king when it comes to a strong and healthy digestive system, so eat smart and fibre up!