As we continue to uncover the importance of diet in terms of supporting gut health and the natural function of the body, we are gaining a better understanding of how each nutrient plays an important role. Just like fuelling a car, what we put into the body matters! We are all familiar with the recommendation to maintain a varied and balanced diet, which increases the diversity of nutrients that the body takes on board. One of the key components that the body needs is fibre; a complex carbohydrate that is not easily digested.
Why do we need fibre?
When we think of fibre, usually one of the first things to come to mind is how it passes through the digestive system to support regular bowel activity, but its benefits are much more diverse. For example, fibre is shown to slow the absorption rate of sugar in the bloodstream1, helping to keep blood glucose levels from rising too quickly. There is also strong evidence to suggest that eating plenty of fibre (sometimes referred to as roughage) is associated with a lower risk2 of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Dietary fibre, known as prebiotic fibre, is particularly helpful to the body because it nourishes good bacteria in the gut, microbes that are known to provide additional benefits to health. Fibrous foods are also beneficial to those looking to lose weight and so may be included as a key part of a diet plan. The nutrient makes us feel fuller for longer which can help reduce snack cravings, while a diet rich in fibre can support healthy digestion and prevent constipation3.
Is fibre good for maintaining digestive health?
Dietary fibre is particularly helpful for keeping the digestive system working properly on a number of fronts, as well as preventing constipation. Some types of fibre bulk up stools, moving waste more effectively through the digestive tract. One of the most significant reasons to increase the intake of dietary fibre is its ability to help increase the good bacteria in the gut and support a favourable balance in the gut microbiome. Good bacteria in the gut have been shown to provide additional benefits to the body, such as supporting immune health, mental health and cognition, as well as sleep health and athletic performance.
What is fermentable fibre and why is it so important?
An estimated 100 trillion bacteria reside in the human gut, mainly in the large intestine and because we can't digest fibre, it reaches the large intestine intact. Friendly gut bacteria are able to digest, or ‘ferment’ it, and use it as fuel - so fermentable fibre can be thought of as ‘fertiliser’ for the gut! This action increases the number and balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which also produce short-chain fatty acids with powerful health benefits. Fermentable fibre, or prebiotic fibre, can be found naturally occurring in a broad range of foods, including Jerusalem artichokes, onions, shallots and whole grains.
How much fibre should I be getting every day?
In the UK most people do not eat enough fibre. The recommended average intake for adults is 30g per day, which includes 5g of prebiotic fibre. However, studies on behalf of Public Health England show that just 9%4 of adults in the UK are reaching this amount. For women, the average intake is 17.2/day and 20.1g/day for men5. This discrepancy demonstrates a growing public health concern known as the ‘fibre gap’. Diet plays a key role in reaching the recommended daily fibre intake. A wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains (including bread and cereal) and pulses should be eaten every day, with every meal. Those aiming to increase fibre intake, which should be the remaining 91% of the population, should look to do this gradually and not all in one go, as too much fibre too quickly can cause digestive discomfort.
As with all nutrition, a food-first approach should always be a priority. If it is simple and achievable, then increasing fibre intake through diet should be the first port of call. However, some people may find this more difficult than others! There are many reasons an individual might choose to introduce a prebiotic supplement such as Bimuno® into their daily routine, including the drive to increase the intake of fibre. Click here to discover more about the Bimuno range, or click here to discover more about the important role of nutrition in health and wellbeing.
What are high fibre foods?
Fibre can be found in a surprisingly diverse range of foods! Why not take a closer look at your everyday diet and find opportunities to include more fibre-rich food?
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley, quinoa and rye
- Fruit such as pears, melon, mango, blackberries, raspberries, kiwis, blueberries and oranges
- Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, kale, parsnips, sweet potato, leeks, cabbage and sweetcorn
- Peas, beans and lentils
- Unsalted pistachio nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts
- Chia, flax, poppy, sunflower and sesame seeds
- Potatoes with the skin on
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