The decreased mobility of society generally, due to the restrictions of the Covid pandemic and the increase in remote working, means the nation is sitting much more. Taking a look at how fibre plays a part in keeping our systems moving and keeping us generally healthy, has become increasingly important.
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Why we need more fibre in our diets
The daily recommended fibre intake is 38g for men and 25g for women, which aims to prevent diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, some forms of cancer and maintain a healthy weight. In reality, the average daily intake of fibre is actually around 9 to 12 grams per day; this simply isn’t enough to promote good gut health. Fibre has several functions in the body, such as holding faeces, preventing it from drying out, shrinking, hardening, getting stuck and causing constipation. The more fibre you eat, the greater the faecal mass and healthy colon functions.
There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble e.g. Oats, fruits, pulses and seeds etc and insoluble; e.g. wholegrain flour, rice, bran and potatoes. All foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre in different proportions. For digestive and bowel health it is better to increase levels of soluble fibres to make the digestive process easier. Unlike other foods, fibre is not digested by the body; instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body. The more refined and processed the food it is, the less fibre it will have. If your daily intake of fibre is currently lower than 38 to 25 grams per day, it is recommended that you increase the fibre intake slowly.
You can start with 5g fibre increments daily to teach the digestive system to adapt to these new levels, otherwise, you may experience symptoms like bloating, wind, cramp and/or constipation. Start by can adding ground linseeds into your natural yoghurt, which is also a source of probiotic – another important element for your gut health. Pop some psyllium husks or rice bran to your bowl of porridge or simply eat an apple for dessert after lunch.
Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. Also reducing the risk of diverticular disease, haemorrhoids, IBS, etc. Studies have also found that a high-fibre diet likely lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.
If you have loose, watery stools, fibre may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool. Some fibre is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
Lower cholesterol levels
Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein “LDL” or “bad” cholesterol levels. Binding with some cholesterol-rich bile in the intestine and inhibiting cholesterol reabsorption into the body.
Studies also have shown that high-fibre foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
Controls blood sugar levels
In people with diabetes, fibre, particularly soluble fibre can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fibre may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Helps maintain a healthy weight
High fibre foods tend to be more filling than low fibre foods, so you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. Furthermore, high-fibre foods tend to be less “energy-dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. The energy density of foods is also affected by fat and water content.
Helps you live longer
Studies suggest that increasing your dietary fibre intake, especially cereal fibre is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.
As you can see, there are many healthy reasons to incorporate more fibre into your diet. If you would like to know more, please take a moment to follow Simone Holz here.