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Why fibre in your diet is essential

Why fibre in your diet is essential

By: Shona Wilkinson

Often overlooked and underappreciated, fibre or roughage, is an 'unsung hero' of the nutrient world and a key part of your diet. This invisible nutrient is a complex carbohydrate in plant-based foods. Unlike other carbohydrates, human digestive enzymes cannot break down fibre. Instead, it passes through the digestive system largely intact, providing numerous health benefits, from healthy digestion to a healthy heart. 

The benefits of fibre

Fibre plays several essential roles in maintaining good health:

  1. It aids in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. You may be interested in reading 'What does your poo say about your health?'.
  2. Fibre can help regulate blood sugar levels, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes.
  3. Fibre contributes to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Discover 5 cholesterol myths busted

It also supports weight management by providing a feeling of fullness, which can help control overeating.

Understand your diet. Create your free Diet Profile.

Types of fibre

There are two primary types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It can help lower cholesterol levels and stabilise blood sugar. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, adds bulk to stool and helps prevent constipation by promoting regular bowel movements. Both types are essential for a balanced diet and overall wellbeing. Continue reading about soluble and insoluble fibre.

Good fibre vs. bad fibre

When it comes to fibre, quality matters just as much as quantity. Good sources of fibre include wholegrains (including oats, brown rice and whole wheat), legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas), fruits (especially those with skins), vegetables and nuts. These foods offer a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre, ensuring various health benefits.

Conversely, 'bad' fibre refers to processed foods fortified with synthetic fibres. While these may contribute to fibre intake, they lack the natural nutrients and health benefits of whole, unprocessed foods.

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Recommended daily intake

The recommended fibre intake varies, but adults should generally aim for around 25 to 38 grams per day. However, surveys suggest that many people fall short of this target. Some may mistakenly believe they consume enough fibre, but their diets may lack diversity, focusing heavily on processed foods.

The recommended daily fibre intake is generally the same for both men and women. However, age, activity level and specific health goals can influence individual needs. Pregnant or lactating women may require slightly more fibre to support their nutritional needs during these periods.

Wondering if your body is getting the right nutrients it needs? Create your FREE Diet Profile and find out in 3 minutes.

During an acute episode of diverticulitis, it is advisable to avoid high-fibre foods that might exacerbate symptoms temporarily. Our expert nutritionist, Shona, explains everything you need to know about diverticulitis.

Boosting your fibre intake

Increasing your fibre intake doesn't have to be a daunting task. Start by making simple swaps in your diet:

  • Choose wholegrain bread instead of refined white bread.
  • Swap white rice for brown rice.
  • Snack on fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Incorporate legumes, including beans and lentils, into your meals.

You may be interested in trying our high Fibre Complexdeveloped by practitioners, providing both soluble and insoluble fibre. Not sure if you need it? Our experts explain how to know if you need a fibre supplement.

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    Top tips to keep in mind

    • Gradually increase your fibre intake to allow your digestive system to adjust.
    • Drink plenty of water to help fibre move through your digestive tract effectively.
    • Read food labels to identify high-fibre options and choose foods with minimal added sugars. Watch out for 'plant-based sweeteners' that can be 200-350x sweeter than sugar.
    • Focus on consuming 7-9 portions of vegetables and fruit per day.
    • Incorporate beans and lentils into your daily diet.

    Dietary fibre is a vital component of a healthy diet, with numerous benefits for digestion, heart health and weight management. Incorporating a diverse range of fibre-rich foods into your meals can significantly impact your overall wellbeing. So, make a conscious effort to include more wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts in your diet to ensure you're reaping the rewards of this essential nutrient.


    High-Fibre plant-based meal plan for a day

    If you're looking to incorporate more fibre into your meals, here are some quick and easy meal ideas that are high in fibre.

    It's important to note that these are all approximates of how much fibre is in each food and can be dependent on the serving size.

    Breakfast

    Porridge topped with fresh berries, sliced banana, nuts and some chia seeds.

    Lunch

    Chickpea salad with mixed greens, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion.

    Snack

    Carrot sticks and hummus.

    Dinner

    Quinoa and black bean bowl with sweet potatoes, spinach and avocado.

    Snack

    Apple slices with nut butter.

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