Dietary fibre, are we getting enough in our diet? Many of us would answer “yes of course I am” but are you really? Lets have a look at how important fibre is and how much we really should be eating each day.
Remember the fibre craze and the F-Plan diet from the early 80s? At the time it was a successful diet but has since faded into the background of the cacophony of diets flooding the market now. The basis of the diet was eating plenty of dietary fibre, the idea being that fibre takes longer to digest so it keeps you fuller for longer. Fibre has a much more important role in our diet though, the problem is, we’re just not eating enough of it.
Fibre and detoxing
Detox is one of the big things in the health world but did you realise that a crucial part of a successful detox program is fibre? When our body processes toxins from food, our environment and our multitude of cleaning and beauty products, those toxins get dumped into our intestinal tract ready to be removed from the body, for this process to be successful we need fibre for the toxins to bind to. The fibre then, like a bouncer in a night club, escorts the toxins all the way to the exit. If fibre isn’t present in our diet, or not enough of it is there, the toxins can get reabsorbed into our body and the processing cycle has to happen again. Our body has to deal with a lot of toxins each day, the last thing we should be doing is making it work even harder.
Fibre and our immune system
As more research is done, the importance of our gut flora in connection with our immune system is being understood. It’s now said that 80% of our immune system is in the gut and a lot of this is due to the good bacteria (the kind we hear about in the probiotic drink adverts) called the microbiome living in our gut. These bacteria feed on the dietary fibre we consume, they love it and absolutely thrive on it, so not eating enough effectively starves the good bacteria and reduces the effectiveness of our immune responses to the nasties around us.
Some studies are showing that eating enough fibre can help protect against bowel cancer too.
Fibre and blood sugar control
It’s not just diabetics who should be trying to control blood sugar spikes from food, everyone should be aware of it. A spike in blood sugar causes a release of insulin to control that sugar spike, and while it does the job very well, insulin also helps to cause the storage of fat in our body. We live in a stressful world now and this causes the release of cortisol in our body. Cortisol helps to tell the body where to store fat. So, insulin says “store fat” and cortisol says “store that fat around the tummy”. But, if you can limit the insulin spikes in the first place, there’s no fat to store. This is what dietary fibre helps to do because when we eat sweet foods that are also high in fibre, such as fruit, the fibre acts to slow down the sugar being absorbed into our body which then greatly reduces the insulin release.
Fibre and weight loss
As well as reducing the amount of insulin whizzing around our body telling it to store fat, fibre also helps to fill us up and keep us feeling full. Most fibre-rich foods also have a relatively low amount of calories so you can eat plenty of them, feel full, and maintain or reduce your weight much easier than struggling on the latest fad diet. 400 calories of veggies have a lot more volume than 400 calories of processed foods and a hell of a lot more fibre too.
How much fibre do we need?
The UK guidelines, updated in July 2015, recommends eating 30g of fibre each day, unfortunately, the average intake is only around 18g. Compare that with our palaeolithic ancestors who ate just over 100g of fibre each day and you can see we are nowhere near what we should be eating (our nutritional needs aren’t too far from what our ancestors required).
If you want to increase your dietary fibre intake to improve your health, you need to do it gradually so your body can get used to that increase, otherwise you could see an increase in bloating and gas until the body has adapted.
Where to get the fibre from?
Fibre can only come from the plant kingdom, animal products contain no fibre and processed foods/meals have a lot of the fibre removed to help increase shelf life. So it’s time to get the greens on your plate or in your smoothies. Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes, replace white rice and pasta for whole wheat/whole grain versions, and make sure you get your fruit juices by eating the fruit rather than opening a bottle or carton of juice (although small amounts of juice are fine). Begin to increase the colour on your plate from the vibrant orange of carrots to the beautiful deep green of kale and broccoli to the reds of tomatoes and red peppers.
Mother nature wants to give us everything we need in the plant kingdom so we can eat enough fibre and make our meals burst with colour and beauty, it would be rude not to accept her offer.