The Irish population as a whole, are not eating enough fibre. According to The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute 80% of Irish people do not reach the recommended 25-30 grams per day. This blog will discuss the role of fibre, why it’s important and explore ways of increasing your fibre intake!
Types of Fibre and Their Role
Fibre is a complex carbohydrate, which means it takes longer for our body to digest and releases sugar into our blood more slowly than a non-complex carbohydrate. However, unlike other complex carbohydrates, our bodies are actually incapable of digesting fibre to release energy, however, fibre has another crucial role in digestion. There are two main types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, such as barley, oats, or sweet potatoes, absorb things like fat and sugar from other food sources, and release them slowly throughout the day. This is why, despite the fact that fibre itself is not digested, it helps give you energy throughout the day. Whereas, insoluble fibre, found in foods such as wheat, brown rice or vegetables does not dissolve in water, but instead absorbs it in the digestive tract. This process helps increase the bulk of stools and promotes healthy bowel motions.
Health Benefits of Fibre
As mentioned above fibre supports the slow release of sugar into the blood. This is beneficial for maintaining a consistent blood sugar level, preventing peaks and troughs. In the short term this prevents periods of lack of energy over the course of the day. In the long term, maintaining a consistent blood sugar level has many health benefits, such as protecting against diabetes, obesity, heart disease and reducing stress hormones and inflammation.
Another benefit of fibre is that it keeps us fuller for longer, and can be used as a method for weight control. As fibre is indigestible it takes up space in the stomach, making us feel full and preventing us from overeating. Finally, as fibre promotes stool formation and bowel motions it helps with constipation, and maintaining a healthy digestive system, which has been shown to lower the risk of conditions such as colon cancer.
Too Much Fibre
As crucial as fibre is, there is such a thing as too much. Consuming too much fibre can lead to feeling bloated and suffering from diarrhoea, which is uncomfortable and could cause a person to lose valuable nutrients and minerals. It is important to note that fibre needs sufficient water within the body to help with healthy stool formation and prevent constipation. Insufficient water with fibre can actually worsen constipation instead of helping it. People should aim for approximately 8 cups a day.
Sources of Fibre
Fibre can only be found in plant-based foods. The average person should aim for 25-30 grams a day, including, ideally a mix of soluble and insoluble. It is also preferable that the fibre comes from different sources, helping you reach your other nutritional requirements. If you are looking for high fibre foods, you can’t go wrong with fruits, vegetables and whole grain or brown cereals and rice. Here are some examples of high fibre foods: lentils and beans, broccoli, whole wheat pasta and avocado.
If you are interested in increasing your fibre intake you could try our set high fibre meal plan: High fibre meal plan or have a look at some of our individuals meals that are high in fibre: Smoky Black Bean Taco Fries, Falafel Salad Wrap With Taco Sauce, Turkey Meatballs with Broccoli & Brown Pasta and Veggie Spaghetti.