It’s part of some of our favourite foods, but it can also be ignored very easily in our day to day diets. However, eating more fibre delivers an array of health benefits.
It not only keeps you regular, it can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, and decrease your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Dr Gina Levy, Senior Nutrition Manager, Kellogg’s ANZ, says.
Fibre is found in all plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. While fruit and vegetables play an important role in providing valuable fibre, it’s the grain fibres that are most effective — “Fibre from grains is the most powerful fibre for reducing type diabetes 2 and cardiovascular disease,” Levy explains.
Fibre is also very filling, which means that it can keep you going between meals, ultimately reducing and limiting the number of snacks you can consume during the day.
To achieve optimum health benefits it’s important to consume a balance of different fibres — soluble, insoluble and fermentable, and all play important roles in helping us maintain a healthy gut.
Soluble fibre helps to reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels, Levy explains. This cholesterol-lowering type of fibre is found in fruits, vegetables and grains such as oats and barley. It can also be found in psyllium, beans and seeds.
Insoluble fibre, which is found in the bran of grains and in fruit and vegetable skins, travels into your colon where it helps to make your toilet visits more frequent.
Fermentable fibres feed all the bugs in the intestine, Levy explains, “which helps to keep a balanced digestive system”. This type of fibre can be found in beans, chickpeas, potatoes, rice, unripe bananas, cereal grains and onion.
Despite its importance, Australians aren’t getting enough — research conducted by Nutritional Research Australia found that an alarming two in every three adults are not meeting their required fibre intake.
“It’s one of those nutrients that people think, ‘if I don’t have a problem with constipation then I don’t need it’.”
So how often should you eat fibre? Aim for at least two serves of fruit (preferably with skin), five serves of vegetables, four serves of grains and one serve of nuts or legumes per day, Levy advises.
If you’re not eating enough fibre at the moment, one of the easiest ways to add fibre to your diet is at breakfast time, she says.
Levy recommends adding a handful of bran or oats, to your smoothie, or cereal. Adding fruit, nuts or seeds also provides additional fibre and other nutrients. Other ways include adding lentils or chickpeas to a stew or digging into some homemade hummus, which is an excellent source of fibre.