In terms of its health benefits, dietary fibre is commonly linked to “keeping you regular”, but that’s usually about where it ends.
So what is all this fuss about fibre really about?
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by our body so it helps to keep our digestive system moving.
Fibre is only found in plants and is present in 2 forms: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre acts like a sponge by absorbing water to make the stools softer. It also helps to effectively remove toxins from your body, which prevents them from being eliminated via other routes, such as your skin. Soluble fibre is found in oats, legumes (e.g. chickpeas and lentils) and fruit and vegetables.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, acts like a bottle brush that picks up waste as it passes through the gut to add bulk to the stool. Good sources of insoluble fibre are corn, brown rice, wholegrain breads and cereals, and fruit and vegetables. Insoluble fibre also feeds your gut bacteria which affects how much goodness you are absorbing from your food.
You need a good balance of both types of fibre to “keep you regular” but it can have the opposite effect if you suddenly increase the amount of fibre in your diet. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids as fibre absorbs water in the body. Basically:
Insoluble fibre + soluble fibre + water = happy digestive system
So how much fibre do we actually need?
NZ surveys show that generally we don’t get enough dietary fibre, with most of us getting less than ½ of our daily requirements. The recommendation for Men is 30g/ day whereas for women it is 25g/ day.
You can make some simple changes to your diet to increase its fibre content:
- 1 cup frozen mixed veges = 8.6g
- 2 Weetbix = 4.8g
- 1 cup brown rice = 3.7g
- 1 kumara / sweet potato = 2.8g
- 1 cup porridge = 2.1g
- 1 apple or banana = 2g
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter = 0.8g
Even simply swapping white bread for brown bread gives you an extra 1.8g fibre.
Choose foods as close to their original state as possible, as nature intended.
Reference: NZ Nutrition Foundation