Everyone seems to be talking about fibre, but what do you need to know and why? Here’s everything you need to know
Let’s start by talking about what fibre is. Basically, dietary fibre is a term used to describe the part of plants which are resistant to digestion in the small intestine. From here, this undigested fibre makes it’s way to the large intestine, some of which is fermented by the trillions of microbes living in your gut.
Whilst we should all be having at least 24 to 35g of fibre each day to reap the benefits, you may be surprised to hear that most adults eat less than 20g of fibre per day.
Having enough fibre in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits. It helps to keep everything moving through the bowel, minimising the time that ‘waste’ products are left sitting in the gut. It can also help you to maintain your weight, reduce your risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and some fibres also act as a ‘prebiotics’, or food for your good gut bacteria.
Now that’s all covered, you’d probably like to know where to get this magical stuff from?
Where to get fibre
One of the easiest and best things you can do to increase your fibre intake is to eat more plant foods. These are all sources of fibre, so by eating more plants, you will automatically be eating more fibre! Plant foods don’t just include fruit and vegetables. Nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains all count too.
And now for the practical stuff. Here are some tips to help you hit your daily fibre goals:
- Choose wholegrain bread
- Choose wholegrain cereals such as brown rice or pasta, quinoa, pearl barley, bulgar wheat
- Add fruit and seeds to your cereals, yoghurts, salads and soups
- Aim for half a plate of vegetables at dinner time
- Bulk up soups, curries and stews with beans and lentils
- Drink plenty of water when increasing fibre intake
- Keep fruit, wholegrain crackers, oatcakes or nuts in your bag or at your desk for a quick snack
- Leave the skin on potatoes and vegetables, but wash thoroughly
Different foods contain different types of fibre, so I’d recommend eating a range of plant foods each week. Your friendly gut bacteria like variety, so treat them by throwing some new foods into your trolley this week.
What does 30g of fibre look like?
Breakfast: 50g oats, 1tbsp flaxseed, 1tbsp chia seeds,15g sultanas, 40g blueberries = 14.4g fibre
Lunch: Two rye crackers with boiled egg, 75g mixed salad, 100g chickpeas = 11.5g fibre
Dinner: Salmon, 80g broccoli, 80g bell peppers, 75g brown basmati rice = 6.2g fibre
Snack: 25g mixed nuts + two kiwis = 4.7g fibre
Total = 36.8g fibre
You may be thinking, can I just take a fibre supplement to meet my fibre needs? If only it was that easy!
Fibre supplements can be useful in some instances, but in general, it is better to get your fibre from whole foods. This is because fibre supplements generally only contain one type of fibre, but did you know there are more than 100 different types of fibre?
Besides fibre, plant foods have so many other benefits, and a fibre supplement cannot replicate this. Studies looking at the benefits of fibre only refer to fibre intake from whole foods, therefore supplements have not been shown to have the same benefits.
In some cases, fibre intake does need to be limited, so if you have been advised to do this, please contact a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet.
Aoife McDonald is a registered dietian based in Cork with a special interest in gut health, IBS and public health and promotion. For more information visit her Instagram on @thedigestivehealthclinic, which mainly focuses on IBS and gut health