Why fibre is vital to the modern diet
By Jenny Mathieson
Fibre, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body cannot digest or absorb, passing relatively intake through and out your body. It aids in normalising bowel motions, improving bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels, assists in balancing blood sugar levels and can help to maintain a healthy weight due to a feeling of fullness.
There are two varieties of fibre: insoluble and soluble.
- Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. It is the bulky fibre that promotes the movement of food through your digestive system helping to prevent constipation. It is found in whole grains and whole grain flours, and vegetables such as carrots, beans and tomatoes.
- Soluble fibre dissolves in water, helps balance blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oats, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, pears, berries and citrus fruits.
Many plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher in both types of fibre it is.
So how can you get more fibre in your diet? Here are a few simple changes you can make to ensure your diet has an adequate amount of fibre — both soluble and insoluble.
Six ways to get more fibre in your daily diet:
1. Jump-start your day with fibre: Look for whole grain cereals, like oats, to boost your fibre intake at breakfast. For added benefit, try soaking the oats overnight to aid digestion.
2. Replace white bread and pasta with whole grain products: Experiment with high fibre pasta and choose whole grain bread for toast and sandwiches. For added benefit, try replacing traditional pasta with zucchini noodles.
3. Add flaxseeds and chia seeds to your diet: Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are high in fibre and Omega 3 fatty acids. They are also a good source of iron and magnesium and can be added to fruit, smoothies or cereal. For added benefit, try adding chia seeds to your water bottle or shake-up your afternoon snack routine with a chia pudding, instead of a biscuit.
4. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Simple but effective! Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat five or more servings daily.
5. Add legumes to your savoury meals. Beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of fibre. Bulk out your soup, casseroles or green salad with kidney beans, butter beans or chickpeas to increase your daily fibre intake.
6. Make snack time count. Making healthy snack choices on the go doesn’t have to be hard. Simply keep a piece of fresh fruit in your work drawer, a jar of chopped carrots in your handbag or a container of raw nuts close by. All of these snack options contain fibre.