Fibre is an essential part of our diet because it keeps the bowel regular and provides food (prebiotics) for the good bacteria in the gut (probiotic). Fibre is the indigestible part of plants, which passes through the intestine, partly fermenting in the gut and is later excreted as faeces.
Fibre has many practical benefits to health. It’s a great way to feel full so you don’t overeat. It can help lower cholesterol by ‘mopping up’ excess cholesterol from the blood to excrete it out of the body. It also lowers the glycaemic index of food you consume so you minimise blood sugar spikes.
When people don’t eat enough fibre they tend to get constipated. Long-term, low fibre intakes have been associated with type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, bowel cancer and metabolic syndrome.
On average, Aussies are only having around 22g of fibre each day, when the current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend, at a minimum, 30g per day. It’s a shame that so many Aussies could be putting their health at risk when high fibre foods taste great!
Why do high fibre foods and meals keep us fuller for longer?
Fibre has the ability to keep you full because it swells in the digestive system with fluid. The fermentation of the fibre in the gut also causes a degree of gas to be produced that presses on the stomach walls to make you feel full. Normal levels of gas production, even though it can be socially awkward, is a sign that you have a healthy gut.
In addition, fibre is very difficult for the body to digest, so it slows down the digestion process. This means you will have food sitting in the digestive system for longer creating feelings of satiety after every meal.
What are examples of high fibre whole foods?
High fibre foods have many health benefits, not only because of the fibre content but because they’re usually packed into micronutrient dense foods. There are three types of fibre that you must consume for good bowel function: insoluble and soluble fibre, and resistant starch.
High insoluble and soluble fibre is easy to add to the diet. You may want to include: wholegrain crackers, wholegrain bread, fruit, vegetables, quinoa, pasta, baked beans, lentils, chickpeas, oats, nuts and seeds.
In contrast, resistant starch is hard to come by. Resistant starch is starch naturally found in food that is resistant to digestion. When resistant starch travels undigested to the large intestine it is processed by ‘good’ bacteria. Foods rich in resistant starch include under ripe bananas, cooked potato and rice that has been cooled, firm cooked pasta, legumes and beans.
A high fibre day may look like the following:
Breakfast: Oats with milk, sprinkled with flaked almonds and strawberries
Lunch: Quinoa, pumpkin, baby spinach and pine nut salad with grilled chicken
Dinner: Roast lamb with oven roasted sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini and green beans
- Tub of Greek yogurt with blueberries
- Handful of roasted chickpeas