Feel Good Fibre: What is it & why is it so good for us?
Most people are familiar with the macronutrient fibre (or dietary fibre as it is sometimes known) and know its important, but many of us aren't sure exactly what it is or how it really helps support our digestive health and overall wellbeing.
We spoke to Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik to find out more about this often-overlooked but key component of a healthy diet.
What is Fibre?
Fibre is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that the body can’t digest - unlike sugars and starches that are also carbohydrate foods but are broken down and digested by the body.
Fibre passes through the body undigested. Acting like a broom, it sweeps food through the gastrointestinal tract and regulates digestive processes.
Because it takes time to move through the digestive system, it helps keep us feeling fuller for longer and can help with weight management.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre
There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Generally speaking we need a combination of both.
Soluble is just that; once eaten it is broken down with water and gastric juices to make a gel-like substance. This is important for helping to lower cholesterol, manage blood sugar levels and support easier elimination from the body.
- You can find soluble fibre in foods such as oats, lentils and many fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fibre cannot be digested and passes through the gut without being broken down. It soaks up water and expands, supporting good intestinal health by helping to move other foods through the digestive system and increase regularity.
- You can find this type of fibre in foods such as nuts and seeds, the skins of many fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
How much fibre do we need?
The recommended amount of fibre per day is around 30g and should include both soluble and insoluble types fairly equally.
If you want to target cholesterol then increasing your soluble fibre intake might be more appropriate than for someone who wants to support digestive regularity who would look to increase their insoluble fibre intake.
Most of us simply need to make sure we are having plenty of both. Go slowly with increasing your intake however, particularly if you have any kind of digestive condition such as IBS, as it may initially make symptoms worse.
How to get more fibre in your diet
Adding superfoods to your diet can be an easy way to increase your fibre intake.
- Baobab is nearly 50% fibre, half soluble and half insoluble, so adding a couple of teaspoons of sweet and citrussy baobab powder to a fresh smoothie or stirring through porridge is an easy way to top up.
- Moringa powder is 31% fibre so another good source. Its spinachy flavour makes it delicious added to green smoothies or used as a "superfood seasoning" on anything from pasta to casseroles, salads or soups
- Super-Cacao powder is also 25% fibre and thanks to its high flavanol content (Super-Cacao is the first cacao with an EFSA-approved health claim), its proven to support healthy blood flow ensuring your digestive system gets a good supply of water, nutrients & oxygen. Incorporating this into your meals is a good option for increasing your daily fibre intake - especially if you love chocolate!
- Or you can try a Baobab or Cacao raw energy bar for a fibre-rich snack!
Article by Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik.