What’s the big deal about Fibre?

I’m sure you have heard from your doctor, your mother, or read it in a magazine – ‘make sure you get enough fibre!’

But… fibre is only for old people, right?

WRONG!

Fibre is one of the most underrated nutrients in the diet. As a society we seem to be always talking about the protein and fat in our diets, but poor old humble fibre often gets over looked, when it might just be the key to good health and weight control!

Fibre is largely classified as carbohydrate. Put simply, there are three types of carbohydrates – simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates and fibre. The reason dietary fibre is not like other carbohydrates, is because the bonds that hold its sugar units together cannot be broken by human digestive enzymes and therefore, fibre cannot be digested.

Even though it may not be able to be digested, fibre can regulate the speed of digestion, modulate metabolism, help lower cholesterol levels, slow the release of sugars into the blood and feed the healthy gut bacteria. The bacteria living naturally in your intestines convert very small amounts of dietary fibre to fatty acids, however not an amount significant to consider fibre a source of energy.

One of fibres biggest attributes, and the reason it really is a friend of anyone frying to manage their weight, is its ability to make you feel fuller for longer… making it one key nutrient to include enough of everyday!

The fact is that most Australians do not consume enough fibre. The Heart Foundation recommends that adults should aim to consume approximately 25–30 g daily and on average, most Australians consume 18–25 g of fibre daily. Part of the reason for this is that over time, we have lost the concept of whole foods. We eat concentrated or reconstituted foods and miss some of the important dietary components when we remove the whole food from the nutrients contained within it. An example of this is the juicing craze… juicing a fruit will not help you digest the nutrients an better, will not ‘cleanse’ you and will certainly not increase your metabolism, in actual fact, by juicing fruit, you miss out on all the roughage… the fibre!

Types of fibre:

There are two types of fibre found in foods

Soluble fibre hides the flesh of fruit and the grain of rice inside the hull, and it’s what gives cooked veggies their soft, mushy quality. In your stomach, soluble fiber binds with liquids to form a gummy gel that makes you feel full as it slows digestion, letting your body absorb more nutrients from the rest of your food.

Insoluble fibre bulks up as it absorbs liquid in the stomach and the bulk pushes waste down and out of your system. Insoluble fibre is usually found in the skins and outer parts of foods, and it’s what gives many their tough, chewy texture. Insoluble fibre works to speed up the passage of material through your digestive tract and sweep out toxins on its way.

Most foods have a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre and anything with 3 grams of fibre is considered a good source of fibre, and an excellent source is anything with 5 grams or more. The best fibre rich foods are generally:

  • Wholegrain breads such as mixed grain, rye, sour dough.
  • Wholemeal cereals like oats, bulgur wheat, pearl barley and brown rice.
  • Fruit and vegetables.
  • Legumes and pulses such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas.
  • Nuts (1/4 of a cup of nuts has 4 grams of fibre)
  • Chia seeds.

Now… Just to confuse matters, it is also important that we point out that if you eat too much fibre, it could potentially reduce the ability to absorb key nutrients including calcium, iron and zinc.

So, to help control your weight, help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of bowel cancer and keep yourself regular, you should aim to include a high fibre breakfast cereal, 2 slices of wholegrain bread, two pieces of fruit and a couple of cups of vegetables everyday. Easy!

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