Fibre is the structural portion of a plant. It is found in whole fruits, vegetables, beans and grains (e.g. corn and brown rice), but there is no fibre in meats, fish or poultry.
The introduction of refined flour products - for example, white bread - has contributed to the slow decline in dietary fibre intake.
Different types of fibres have different effects on the body, so it's important to get plenty of fibre from a variety of sources.
The average person struggles to meet recommended daily intake of
25-30 grams of fibre a day. In fact, most of us only eat about 15
Water-soluble fibres have many beneficial effects to our healthy including:
- Delaying the time it takes for food to pass through the system providing a feeling of fullness.
- Slowing the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream, helping to keep blood-sugar levels more even throughout the day.
- Lowering blood cholesterol levels, which is why oats and oat bran have been popular for heart health.
Water-soluble fibres are found in the highest concentration in apples, oranges, carrots, potatoes, oats, barley and beans.
Water-insoluble fibres speed up the transfer of food through the intestines. As they trap water, they are particularly good in helping to minimise constipation. These fibres are found in the highest concentrations in vegetables, wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran and most other whole grains.
Health Benefits of Fibre
- Fibre helps maintains normal bowel function.
- A high-fibre diet helps weight-loss.
- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have fewer calories than fatty or sugary foods.
- Fibres keep food in the stomach longer and absorb water, providing a sensation of fullness.
How to Increase Your Fibre Intake
Adding too much fibre to the diet in a short period of time
might lead to abdominal discomfort and wind, so if your diet is
usually low in fibre, increase the amount slowly over a few weeks
to give your system time to adjust.
Drink plenty of liquid to allow the fibre to soften and swell, and try to eat a variety of fibre sources to reap all the health benefits that high-fibre foods provide.
- Eat whole fruits - and their skin.
- Try to include a variety of cooked and raw vegetables in your diet.
- Use wholegrain cereals, oatmeal and bran cereals.
- Buy 100% whole-grain breads and crackers.
- Swap to wholegrain pasta.
- Cook with brown rice, barley or cracked wheat instead of white rice.
- Add beans to soups, stews, chilli or salads.
If you have trouble meeting your fibre intake, you can try taking fibre supplements. Remember, however, that supplements don't replace the healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you should be consuming.