What the F is Fibre?
What are the main benefits of fibre?
You’ve probably heard that fibre is important for a healthy digestive system, but its positive health outcomes stretch far beyond the gut. The list of benefits range from weight management and helping to reduce cholesterol, to lowering your risk of bowel cancer, diverticular disease and diabetes (by helping with blood sugar control). Fibre also promotes a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, which plays a key role in supporting the immune system, with 70-80% of our immune cells located in the gut.
What are the different types of fibre?
Fibre can be split into two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre can be found in oats, peas, apples and carrots, and can help lower cholesterol and stabilise blood glucose levels, as it enables sugar to be released more slowly, avoiding those spikes and crashes known as the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’. Insoluble fibre, found in wholewheat flour, nuts, beans, cauliflower and kale, is helpful for relieving constipation. Both types are important and we need a balance of the two.
Can we have too much fibre? What happens then?
We should be aiming for around 30-40 grams of fibre per day (38 grams for men under 50 years of age), but the average intake in the UK is only 18 grams per day. Fibre is essential for our health, but a sudden switch to a high-fibre diet may lead to unwanted digestive symptoms, such as bloating, gas and constipation. To avoid this, it’s best to build up gradually over a period of a few weeks, to allow your body the time to adjust. It’s also important to drink lots of water when increasing your fibre intake, which will help promote a smooth digestive process.
While it is thought that the vast majority of people do not ingest enough fibre, it is also possible to overdo it with fibre – although this is far less likely, and you would need to be eating more than 70 grams of fibre per day. Some people have a naturally higher tolerance for more fibres, while others may be more sensitive to too much fibre. If you do overdo it with fibre, remember to increase your fluid intake to compensate for the extra fibre, as well as doing some light physical activity such as walking and stretching can help relieve any discomfort.
How to boost your fibre intake
Here are some simple swaps you can make to supercharge your fibre intake:
- Make sure you’re hitting your 5-a-day as a bare minimum, but aim higher if you can!
- Swap white refined carbohydrates for wholegrain varieties, such as brown rice, wild rice, wholegrain rye bread and wholewheat pasta
- Add beans and pulses to any meal, from soups and stews to hearty chickpea salads.
- Snack on nuts and seeds (but be aware of portion sizes).
- Opt for popcorn over pick’n’mix on your next trip to the cinema – popcorn is a great source of fibre.
- Keep healthy fibre-rich snacks in the fridge, like carrot sticks with hummus, apple slices dipped in almond butter, or a date filled with peanut butter (a personal favourite!)
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Check out my other nutrition-related blog posts below:
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- Nutrition for Hair: What To Eat For Healthy Hair
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- What is Fatty Liver (NAFLD) + How Can Nutrition Help?
- Reasons You’re Always Hungry
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- The Truth About Caffeine + 8 Coffee Alternatives
- Eat Healthy On A Budget: Tips to Survive the Cost of Living Crisis
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- How To Eat for Mental Health: The Food-Mood Connection
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