What is fibre and why is it important?
Dietary fibre is the edible part of plants which your body can’t digest or absorb. Fibre is sometimes called bulk or roughage. Fibre can be categorised by 3 physical characteristics, including its ability to dissolve (e.g. soluble and insoluble), how thick it is (gel-like quality), and how well it can be broken down (fermentability). Each category of fibre provides different benefits for your body. Examples include lowering blood cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar levels, slowing the digestion of food so you feel full for longer, increasing stool bulk to assist in reducing constipation, improving the diversity of the good bacteria in the gut, reducing inflammation in the gut, and enhancing immunity.
How much fibre do I need?
The average adult should consume about 30g of dietary fibre each day. Because different types of fibres provide varying benefits, it is important to choose fibre rich foods from many different sources, such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses, nuts, and seeds. Food labels can indicate if a product is high in fibre or a source of fibre. Check for grams of fibre per 100g.
High fibre: 6g per 100g
Source of fibre: ≥3g per 100g
Tips for improving your fibre intake:
- refined grains for whole grains (e.g. whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, whole wheat couscous, barley, oats, bran flakes)
- half white flour for whole wheat flour when baking
- fruit juice for whole fruit
- dessert for whole fruit
- lentils, chickpeas, peas or beans to soups, curries and stews
- lentils to mince
- nuts, flaxseeds or chia seeds to yoghurts, cereals or salads
- barley or wild rice to soups and salads
- fill half of your plate with vegetables at lunch and supper
- eat a variety of colourful vegetables
- have 5 servings of fruit and vegetables everyday
- leave the skin on fruit and vegetables (e.g. potatoes and sweet potatoes)
- drink 6-8 glasses of water everyday
When increasing your fibre intake, it is advisable to do it gradually to avoid any bloating and gas. And remember, different fibres have different effects on the gut, so variety is key!