Within nutrition, the foundations we set are essential for optimal health. Among them, the importance of dietary fibre will never go unnoticed. Fibre, a key component of plant-based foods, is much more than just roughage. It plays a vital role in maintaining overall well-being, from promoting digestive health to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. And in addition to this, an alarming amount of Australians do not consume near enough of their daily requirements, particularly through fresh fruits and vegetables (Fayet-Moore et al., 2018).
So, let's delve into fibre from a holistic perspective and explore why it deserves a prominent place in our daily diet.
What is Fibre?
Fibre, also known as roughage or bulk, refers to the indigestible portion of plant-based foods. Unlike other nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, fibre remains intact as it passes through the digestive system, providing numerous health benefits along the way. It primarily consists of two types: soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, and insoluble fibre, which does not.
So what are the benefits of fibre ?
Improved Digestive & Gut Health: Adequate fibre intake promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and alleviates digestive disorders such as diverticulosis and haemorrhoids. It acts as a natural cleanser, bulking and lubricating the stool keeping the gastrointestinal tract healthy and promoting detoxification through regular bowel motions. Fibre also exerts prebiotic effects promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, a strong immune system and even good mental health (Sorboni et al., 2022).
Blood Sugar Control: Soluble fibre slows down the absorption of sugar, helping to regulate blood glucose levels which has a flow on effect to many other things including energy levels throughout the day. It is also significant for individuals with diabetes, aswell as PCOS which are conditions that have strong correlations with blood sugar control (Reynolds et al., 2020).
Heart Health: Fibre-rich diets have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease (Reynolds et al., 2022). Soluble fibre helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol particles and removing them from the body. This reduces the risk of arterial plaque formation and promotes cardiovascular health. In fact, between a 7 to 10 gram increase in fibre reduced cardiovascular disease by 9% (Threapleton et al., 2013).
Fibre rich food sources
To reap the benefits of fibre, it's crucial to incorporate a variety of high-fibre foods into our diet. Some examples of excellent sources of fibre include:
Whole grains: such as oats, brown rice and quinoa.
Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans.
Fruits: apples, pears, berries, oranges, and bananas.
Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, spinach, and kale.
Nuts and seeds: almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Tips for Increasing Fibre Intake
Gradual Increase: When increasing fibre intake, it's important to do so gradually and drink plenty of water to help prevent digestive discomfort.
Diverse Food Choices: Opt for a variety of fibre-rich foods to ensure you benefit from different types of fibre and a b
oader range of nutrients.
Read Food Labels: Check food labels for the fibre content of packaged products, and choose those with higher fibre content and minimal additives added sugar and oils.
Smoothies and Soups: Incorporate fibre-rich ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and seeds into smoothies and soups to boost your fibre intake.
Sneak it into snacks: Choose wholefoods as snacks including fruit, nuts, or seeds as a healthy and convenient high-fibre snack.