A high fibre diet is part of a healthy lifestyle, but most of us don’t get enough of it. There are many benefits of dietary fibre, and the best way to eat more is to have a combination of foods akin to a Mediterranean diet. Looking for high fibre foods should definitely be on your to do list if you are considering any form of diet, including for diabetes and weight loss.
Fibre generally comes in 2 forms, soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. You can increase your intake by eating more high fibre fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of high fibre foods such as beans, broccoli, nuts and seeds to name a few, so make sure you include them in your meal plan. Some sources of fibre include beans, broccoli, nuts, seeds, pears
Before we take a look into the benefits, what are the differences between soluble and insoluble fibre?
Soluble fibre attracts water, making it soluble and forms a gel-like substance inside the digestive system. It then binds to substances such as sugar and cholesterol, preventing or slowing down their digestion and absorption into the blood. This is also what affects the absorption of fat.
Insoluble fibre does not absorb or dissolve in water. It is excreted from the body close to the original form in which it was consumed. This promotes the movement of material and helps it pass more quickly through the digestive system, also adding bulk to stools. So it can benefit those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools.
Both soluble fibre and insoluble fibre are undigested. They pass through the body and are not absorbed into the bloodstream or used for energy. The more fibre you eat, the more it will help regulate your digestive system.
These are some of the health benefits of fibre:
Helps you maintain your weight
Your gut plays a large role in your weight. Having too much bad bacteria has been linked to health issues such diabetes, obesity, allergies, depression, cancer and asthma. The good bacteria help to reduce gut inflammation, which has been linked to weight gain and obesity. Eating a high fibre diet feeds your good gut bacteria, lowering your risk of obesity.
As fibre has no calories, eating foods high in fibre helps keep your calories down. Fibre also makes you feel fuller for longer as it takes longer to digest. So you’re less likely to eat too much and put on weight.
Keeps hormones balanced
There are many symptoms of hormonal imbalance. This is why it is so important to keep them in check, and making the right food choices plays an important role. Eating enough fibre helps the body to flush out excess oestrogens, keeping your hormones balanced.
Helps control your blood sugar levels
Eating fibre is important for diabetics because it is not digested and does not raise your blood glucose levels. The soluble fibre is what is most important here. Any excess glucose that is released into your intestines becomes reabsorbed if there is no food present. Soluble fibre binds to this glucose and carries it out of your body.
Reduces your risk of heart disease
In the same way that fibre reduces the glucose being reabsorbed in the small intestines, fibre also has a similar effect on cholesterol. Excess cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, which can lead to increased risks of heart attacks and stroke. So eating more fibre will help your body to reduce any excess bad cholesterol (LDL) and its associated side effects.
Promotes healthy bowel movement
Both soluble and insoluble fibre pass through the body. They can help regulate bowel movement, benefitting sufferers of both constipation and diarrhoea.
If you are suffering from constipation, passing stools through the body can be painful and lead to haemorrhoids and hernias. Soluble fibre helps to draw in water, making the stool softer and easier to pass.
Diarrhoea is effectively the opposite of constipation, where there is too much water in the stool causing it to become loose. Because soluble fibre absorbs water, it can help remove the excess fluid in the bowel and thus help to firm up loose stools.
Keeps your skin healthy
The cosmetic world is full of products out there that claim to help reduce acne and blackheads. In the US alone, the amount spent on acne treatments is in excess of $100 million. We’re advised to buy a good quality product, and be consistent in the way we apply it. Over time this can lead to soaring costs. But there may be a much simpler way to drastically improve our skin: eat more fibre.
It’s been found that there is a strong relationship between our immune system and acne. Bacteria that gets clogged in pores can lead to acne. Our immune systems fight the bacteria, so having a strong immune system will help keep your skin healthier.
How much fibre should you eat?
So this is the big question. Are you getting enough? Well according to a 2015 government report, most adults eat on average 18g of fibre per day. In the USA, the average daily fibre intake is even lower at 15g.
The recommended intake of dietary fibres for women is 25g per day, and the recommended intake for men is 38g per day. Clearly, most of us are not getting enough.
One of the reasons many people get less than the recommended amount of fibre is usually due to a diet that is focused mostly on meat. This causes an imbalance of nutrients. And whilst protein is essential and can benefit an active lifestyle, it is still important to focus on a balanced diet. More protein doesn't necessarily mean more muscle growth.
If you're one of majority of people who do not get enough fibre, consider slowly increasing you fibre intake. Shocking your body with a sudden increase can cause some unwanted side effects. It is also important to have fibre throughout the day and not in just one meal. Aim to keep all of your meals balanced and spread out your fibre intake throughout the day.