Fibre: Increase your fibre intake easily and improve your health
15 June 2019 | Editor
Are you maximising the quality of you diet?
There is a huge amount of information about different diets and healthy eating but it's not often as complete as it might be.
You may well be aware of the need to monitor the amount of carbohydrates, fats or proteins you consume. It might be:
- because you are training for a marathon and need to increase your protein consumption to increase muscle mass, or
- your doctor told you to eat fewer saturated fats because of high blood pressure, or
- maybe you’ve gone low-carb or ‘keto’ in a quest to lose weight
It is still likely that you’re missing out on a very important nutrient.
Statistics show that in the Western populations, the majority of people don’t eat enough of it. Low intake is linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease and IBS. What is it?
Fibre, of course! Arguably the most under-valued, but the most health-promoting food group. Increasing your intake of fibre, especially prebiotic fibre, should be at the top of your list if you want to improve your health!
What is fibre and where do you find it?
Dietary fibre is found in plants and represents a range of carbohydrates that are indigestible by human enzymes. They go through the gastrointestinal tract mostly intact, until they reach the colon where they’re either fermented by gut bacteria or used to bulk the stool.1 The form of fibre that can be utilised by the gut microorganisms for fuel and growth is defined as ‘prebiotic’. There are two main types of fibre:
Soluble fibre . . .
. . . such as pectin, found in pears, apples, and prebiotics like inulin, are able to dissolve in water and form a gel-like substance, softening stools.
Insoluble fibre . . .
. . . like cellulose, predominant in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, adds bulk to stools, supporting bowel movements.
Although these foods are easily available, most adults consume only about 18g of fibre per day, which is far less than the government recommended 30g. The trends are similar in children.
Even small increments could have profound impacts on your health!
Here are 5 key benefits of increasing your fibre intake:
1. Improved digestion
People who eat more than 30 different plant types per week have better digestion than those who ate 10 or fewer. This may be due to the role of fibre such as F.O.S. and resistant starch that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and fights bad, unfriendly bacteria and suppresses pathogenics as well as balancing the level of good and bad bacteria. A daily intake of F.O.S. at 10g could also alleviate constipation.
Prebiotics may help combat autoimmune diseases, which are on the rise today, for example ‘leaky gut’ , (in effect a leaky gastrointestinal wall, which lets antigens to penetrate through it).
Consumption of inulin has been shown to improve the guts ability to prevent this and supplementation of GOS (galactooligosaccharides) could be a suitable nutritional strategy for this. (We'll show you how to get hold of these nutrients later in the article).
2. Balanced hormones
Common disorders such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and infertility, are associated with ‘oestrogen dominance’; a condition driven by various physiological and environmental factors, one of which is disturbed gut microflora.
Any imbalance of gut bacteria can lead to an increased production of beta-glucuronidase, which can detach oestrogens so they are free to recirculate in the blood. Clinical studies show the benefit of prebiotics for hormonal conditions.
3. Strong and resilient immune system
Prebiotics, can strengthen the immune system, our first line of defence against pathogens, reducing inflammation.
The immune system is also enhanced by the consumption of particular prebiotics thus allowing faster recovery from bacterial and/or viral infections.
4. Healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels
Consuming F.O.S. in combination with probiotics has been shown to cause a significant reduction in cholesterol and inflammation while elevating the levels HDL (good) cholesterol.
Adding fibre-rich foods can lower the glycemic index of meals, which helps preventing an initial sharp increase in blood sugar levels, followed soon by a crash. Research shows that a high intake of resistant starch can significantly improve insulin sensitivity.
This effect of fibre could be further supported with the consumption of inulin which contributes to the development of vascular and metabolic complications in diabetes.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be further reduced with inulin (at 30g/day) by making the liver less fatty and improving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
5. Healthy weight management and effective weight loss
Once you start eating more fibre, you will be already supporting your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is important if you are on a weight management programme, as excess glucose tends to be converted to fats and stored in fatty tissue, rather than being used for energy. The modulation of blood glucose could help lower hunger and further food intake.
Furthermore, obesity has been associated with disturbed gut microflora. One study found that supplementation with prebiotics in obese women lead to modest changes in their metabolism and reduced fat mass through modulation of the microbiome.38
Interestingly, regular intake of a specific type of fibre called acacia gum can lead to a significant reduction in Body Mass Index (BMI) and body fat percentage and therefore help manage of obesity. This likely occurs through the ability of fermentable carbohydrates to improve glucose tolerance and fat burning, for example.
So how can you ensure you are getting enough fibre?
- Increase your daily intake of vegetables and fruits up to at least 7 and 3 portions, respectively.
- Aim for ‘eating the rainbow’ by including as many as possible different colourful plants.
- Consider consumption of foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, banana, asparagus, garlic, onions, and chicory, all rich in F.O.S. and inulin, as well as leeks, carrots, radish, pears, tomato, and turmeric, providing arabinogalactans.
- Eat whole vegetables: broccoli stalks, cauliflower leaves, carrot tops.They are rich in nutrients and can help reduce waste, a win-win!
- Swap refined grains for whole grains (e.g. brown vs white rice).
- Include legumes and beans into your diet as these are a good source of GOS (galactooligosaccharides) (e.g. peas) and resistant starch, abundant in cooked and cooled potatoes.
- As healthy snacks, choose nuts and seeds or berries.
- Consider supplementation with a wide range of prebiotics in order to meet or even go beyond the daily recommended dose of 30g. Adding these into your smoothie or porridge could be already a great start towards a higher fibre intake.
If you are prone to symptoms of bloating and gas or have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), you may have been told to avoid fibre-rich foods. This frankly goes against the diet which we have survived and thrived off over the course of human evolution. The trick is to start low and slow, introducing fibre gradually to allow your gut to get used to it over time!
Are you ready for a challenge? Start increasing your intake of fibre today and reap the long-term benefits!
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All-in-one blend of soluble plant fibres to support the balance of the gut microbiome and overall gut health, with inulin, marshmallow, apple pectin, acacia gum, arabinogalactans and resistant starch
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How much fibre is in your diet? Instantly increase your dietary diversity in one go, with a wide-ranging combination of different soluble fibres from plants, combined in perfect balance
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