Most of us will have heard that fibre is an essential component of a healthy diet. However, research has found that most Australians are still not consuming enough. So what is fibre? What are the benefits of a high fibre diet? Here is a rundown of how fibre functions do not only maintain good digestive health but how it can contribute to a range of other health benefits, some of which may surprise you!
Fibre is the non-digestible component of plants, i.e. vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, and legumes, which promote a healthy digestive system. These indigestible parts pass relatively unchanged through our digestive system and can be subdivided into three categories, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch (or fermentable insoluble fibre). Each of these categories has their own functions which are essential for bowel health.
The function of soluble fibre is to slow gastric emptying and provide a feeling of fullness. Research has found soluble fibre can be useful for lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels and stabilising blood sugars. Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, lentils, peas and soy products.
Insoluble fibre absorbs water from the digestive tract and as a result, softens stools and assists with the regularity of bowel movements. This fibre adds bulk to stool and helps to prevent constipation and associated issues such as haemorrhoids. Good sources of this fibre include wholegrain bread, cereals, nuts, seeds and in the skins of fruits and vegetables.
This starchy component of food resists digestion in the small intestine (where starch is typically broken down and absorbed) and proceeds to the large intestine to be fermented by bacteria. This feeds and promotes the growth of good bacteria which are essential for proper bowel health and may reduce the risk of cancer. Resistant starch can be found in cooked and cooled potato and rice, undercooked pasta and under-ripe bananas.
Diets with insufficient fibre intakes are at higher risk of numerous health issues including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis (abnormal bulging pockets in the wall of the intestine), haemorrhoids and bowel cancer. Whereas, in the case of high fibre diets (in addition to good digestive health and the regulation of bowel movements), the feeling of fullness, improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar regulation can potentially go on to prevent chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.
This has been revealed, in part, through population studies which have found that in countries with traditionally high fibre diets, the incidence of diseases such as bowel cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are much less common than in Western countries with typically lower intakes of dietary fibre.
According to the current Australian Dietary Guidelines, the recommended fibre intake for adults is 25 – 30g of fibre per day. This becomes increasingly more important as we get older as our digestive system slows down with age.
Here are some examples of the fibre quantities of natural fibre rich foods:
- ½ cup rolled oats 4.5g
- 1 cup broccoli 3.8g
- 100g kidney beans 6.5g
- 1 cup brown rice 2.7g
Fibre is your friend!
PICKLD’s recipe for Roasted eggplant & capsicum salad with buckwheat & fresh rocket – seasoned with PICKLD Coriander premium seasoning blend provides approximately 6g of fibre per serve. Additionally, the recipe also contains balsamic vinegar which has shown to promote ‘good gut bacteria’.
The recommended intake of fibre can be achieved by consuming a variety of whole grain, wholemeal or high fibre grain foods, ie bread and pasta, as well as other whole grains such as rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa and barley. It is also important to consume at least 2 fruits and 5 vegetables per day (as a minimum, the more veggies, the better!). For an additional fibre boost, try incorporating a sprinkle of bran or psyllium husk over cereal, muesli or yoghurt, or consume a handle of nuts and seeds as a snack.
Another approach is to incorporate more legumes into meals, eg a lentil bolognese where either half or all of the mince is substituted with lentils (brown lentils work great for this). It is also important to be consuming plenty of water to prevent abdominal discomfort or constipation.
PICKLD has created a range of seasoning products that are 100% plant-based and, as well as being a source of fibre of their own, are specially designed to enhance the natural flavours and texture of fibre rich plant food. PICKLD seasonings can, therefore, be a great way to assist you with including more plant packed foods into your diet that are both delicious as well as nutritious – your body will thank you for it!