Are you eating enough fibre? As a nation, we are majorly lacking in our fibre consumption. Only 10% of the population is reaching the daily recommended fibre intake (30g) and to put it lightly, the other 90% are really missing out.
The vast benefits that fibre can offer are invaluable, especially for the western population suffering greatly from diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With an average intake of only 18g of fibre a day, it comes as no surprise that our incidence of gut-related issues is so high compared with those outside the western world.
The word fibre is everywhere nowadays. ‘Increase your fibre intake!’ ‘Fibre does this, fibre does that!’. Well I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but it really is spectacular what fibre can do for us.
The effects of fibre stretch far beyond the health of our gut and preventing gut-related diseases, although it’s great for bulking up and softening our stool to prevent constipation. It has now been established that fibre has a plethora of benefits for our general health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. More interestingly, it has been recognised that fibre plays an important role in brain function and immune health. Research has shown that a diet rich in fibre can significantly reduce symptoms of depression.
What is dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre is found in plant foods and refers to the parts that are unable to be digested and absorbed in the small intestine.
You might ask, ‘well, how does fibre work such magic when we can’t even digest it?’
The answer lies in our minuscule microbial mates that reside all along our large intestine. These fibre-loving friends play a significant role in our health by secreting post-biotic molecules that we are able to absorb, called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs circulate our bodies through our bloodstream, affecting regulation of body weight, success of pregnancy, anti-cancer surveillance, brain health and our immune system.
How to increase your fibre intake
According to UK guidelines, healthy adults over the age of 17 are advised to eat 30g of fibre a day, though research shows that our intakes are often much lower than this (18g). The key to adequate fibre intake is to keep it diverse. Switch up your sources of fibre when you can! The more diverse your gut bacteria, the healthier you will be.
Increasing your fibre intake should be done gradually to avoid bloating and gas, and some ways to do this include:
1) A high fibre breakfast: Oats, high fibre cereals, and wholegrain bread are excellent sources. Add fruits, nuts and seeds for an extra boost.
2) High fibre snacks
Fruits, nuts and seeds
3) Leave the skin on!
Apples and Potatoes
4) Reaching your 5 a day:
Add vegetables to stews/curries or as a side to your meals.
5) Opting for ‘whole grains’
Swapping to wholegrain bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta can make that extra difference.
- Two slices of wholemeal toast (4.7g)
- 150g of baked beans (6.5g)
= 11.2g of fibre!
Sources of fibre
Cereals and whole grains:
high fibre cereals, oats, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain bread, brown rice
peas, potatoes (with skin), carrots, artichokes
apples (with skin), bananas, pears, raspberries, prunes, figs
Beans and pulses:
Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils
Nuts and seeds:
almonds, peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Many of us do not reach the recommended 30g of dietary fibre a day. Fibre is essential for normal gut functioning, having multiple protective benefits and playing a key role in our brain health and immune function.Incorporating a greater variety of whole foods and plant based foods into your diet can help increase your fibre intake!
If you need help on your journey then I am always here. Leave me a comment or contact me directly through my website, Instagram or email!
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This article was co-written by Nuna Kamhawi and Aasi Panchbhaya. Aasi is a neonatal intensive care nurse and a Nutrition MSc student at Kings College London. Her main interests lie in maternal and infant nutrition. You can find her on instagram @eatwithaasi.