We all need to eat more dietary fibre, here’s why!
Dietary fibre is one component of our diet that is massively underrated. It has numerous health benefits for weight loss, blood sugar levels and more. Read on to learn more about what dietary fibre is, how exactly it benefits our overall health and how you can increase your intake with small but effective changes!
What is dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre is a component of carbohydrates that cannot be digested or absorbed by the stomach and small intestine. Our body doesn’t have the mechanisms to break fibre down normally. Instead, it travels to our colon where it is fermented by our gut bacteria to be broken down.
Dietary fibre provides our bodies with a little bit of energy, about 2kcal/g, compared to carbs and protein that give us about 4kcal/g. Fibre is exclusively found in plant-based food. Usually you will find fibre in carbohydrate rich foods, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains but nuts and seeds are also a great source. There are many types of fibre, however to simplify things, think of the two types as soluble and insoluble and the key is to eat a range of fibre rich foods to get both!
What are the health benefits of consuming dietary fibre?
- Enhance gut health:
As we mentioned, we need good bacteria in our gut to digest fibre. Fibre actually acts as food for the bacteria in our gut. This helps the bacteria thrive and increase in number as well as type, which leads to improved digestions, thickening of the intestinal lining and production of an anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acid called butyrate!
- Helps to prevent Type 2 Diabetes:
Consuming high fibre foods can prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and help keep type 2 diabetes under control. When consuming carbohydrates that contain dietary fibre (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc.) the fibre can slow down the release of sugar from the food and keep blood glucose levels stable. In fact, those with the GT or TT variant of the TCF7L2 gene are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if their high fibre whole grain consumption is low! Click here if you want to read more around the scientific evidence behind this.
- Helps to prevent Heart Disease:
Similarly to how fibre slows down the release of glucose, it also reduces our absorption of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. This can decrease our risk of developing different types of heart disease.
- Aids with Weight loss:
Since dietary fibre is low in energy compared to carbohydrate or fat, it is a great nutrient to incorporate in your diet for weight loss. Not only that, but fibre also makes you feel fuller for longer which can help reduce your feelings of hunger during weight loss.
So, now that we know how amazing fibre is for so many aspects of our health, what foods do we need to eat so we can get these benefits?
Simple ways to increase fibre in your diet:
- Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can be a great way to get more fibre in as well as more micronutrients. A sustainable way to increase your fruit and veg during the day is having some as a snack or adding a serving with each meal! The highest fibre fruits as berries and the highest fibre veggies are french green beans and artichokes!
- Beans and Legumes are high in fibre as well as plant protein. Swapping your animal-protein with a serving of beans or chickpeas can boost your fibre intake during the day and also reduce your consumption of animal products!
- Whole grain carbohydrates that haven’t had the bran removed are a great source of fibre. Swapping white bread for a brown seeded bread or white pasta for brown pasta are simple yet effective changes.
- Nuts and seeds are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and luckily contain a great amount of fibre. Why not add to your breakfast, salads or eat as a snack? But careful not to eat too large a portion as they are also energy dense and too many may contribute to weight gain.
General dietary guidelines vs personalized advice
In the UK, general dietary guidelines recommend people consume 30g of dietary fibre every day due to the various health benefits. However, as a population, we are not meeting this requirement. On average, people consume about 20g of fibre/day. But did you know that not everyone needs the same amount of fibre? A genetic test can help you find out exactly how much fibre you need! Not only that, but knowing your genes and having dietary guidelines personalised to you has been scientifically proven to help you stick to dietary changes more than you would generic guidelines.