The Importance of Fibre in Your diet

As a nutritionist and raw food enthusiast I am always encouraging people to eat far more fruit and vegetables than they currently do. One of the benefits of this is the high amount of fibre which will then be included in the diet.

Studies have found that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fibre are associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes, digestive disorders and heart disease.

Our bodies need fibre in order to

  • stimulate the bowel to excrete waste products regularly – insoluble fibre aids digestion and adds bulk to stool, it hastens passage of faecal material through the gut, thus helping to prevent or alleviate constipation.
  • ensure that absorption of nutrients from our food occurs in controlled and gradual fashion and especially to help control blood sugar release, e.g. in Diabetes: Soluble fibre traps carbohydrates to slow their digestion and absorption. In theory, this may help prevent wide swings in blood sugar level throughout the day.
  • stimulate the body to produce substances that limit free-radical damage
  • fill us up and makes us feel satiated
  • help prevent bowel disease e.g. Cancer: studies have consistently noted an association between low total fat and high fibre intakes and reduced incidence of colon cancer. A 1992 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that men who consumed 12 grams of fibre a day were twice as likely to develop pre-cancerous colon changes as men whose daily fibre intake was about 30 grams.
  • Helps prevent heart disease. Clinical studies show that a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain soluble fibre,  can lower blood cholesterol. In these studies, cholesterol levels dropped between 0.5% and 2% for every gram of soluble fibre eaten per day.
  • remove toxic heavy metals if present in digestive system

Which Foods Contain Fibre?
There are plenty of foods with substantial fibre content that taste good. Fibre is only found in plant foods like whole grain cereals, (wheat, corn, oats), brown rice, dry beans, lentils and peas, vegetables, and fruits. Because there are different types of fibre in foods, choose a variety of foods daily.

There are two types of fibre; soluble such as that found in oat bran and pulses and insoluble such as that found in wheat, maize and rice. Some of the insoluble fibres such as wheat bran, corn or sweetcorn  can be quite rough and bad for those with sensitive bowels, causing irritation and diarrohea. Too much insoluble fibre (especially wheat based) can cause vitamins and minerals to be leached out of the body. Short grain brown rice is a much more gentle alternative.

Soluble fibre such as that found in oats is good for chelating bile acids including cholesterol, and preventing the re-absorption of liver waste products. Mucilages such as linseed or chia seed  hold water, bind steroids, and assist with removing heavy metals and other toxins from the body.

TIP: Transit time through the bowel should be around 24 hours. To test your transit time eat some sweetcorn and then wait to see how long it takes to appear in your stools.

In order for fibre to work efficiently you must  have plenty of water. If you increase your fibre intake you must increase water too. (Though fruits and vegetables tend to have a high water content anyway). You should increase fibre intake slowly or too sudden an increase may cause problems of bowel toxicity.

In general, a food that is high in fibre would have at least 5g of fibre per serving or more. Those that are good sources of fibre have at least 2.5g of fibre per serving.