Fibre is an absolute must for good health. Find out why with the My Blackmores nutritional guide.
Fibre is the name given to a group of indigestible materials that make up part of plant cells walls. It is therefore only found in plant foods, not meat, fish or dairy products. There are two types of fibre:
You’ll find this in wholewheat, wholegrains, brown rice, nuts and seeds. Insoluble fibre swells in the intestine and grabs fluid, increasing bulkiness and softness, making it easier for waste matter to pass through the gut.
Find this in oats, peas and beans, fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibre binds to blood cholesterol to make a sort of gel that ‘mops up’ fatty substances, removing them from the body. This is important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and normal cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre also slows the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, helping to avoid spikes and slumps in blood glucose levels. In other words, it helps to provide consistent energy and is especially important to keep sugar cravings under control.
What is resistant starch?
Resistant starch is another plant fibre that researchers say can benefit your health.
Unlike other types of starch, this kind isn’t digested in the small intestine, but enters the large intestine where gut bacteria ferment it and produce substances that help to keep the bowel lining healthy.
Foods that contain resistant starch include pasta cooked al dente (which literally means 'firm to the bite'), under ripe bananas, cooked, cooled potatoes and some types of maize products.
Getting enough fibre
Not eating enough fibre–containing foods could increase the risk of digestive problems, including constipation and haemorrhoids (piles), diverticular disease (little hernias in the lower gut, which can get infected), irritable bowel syndrome, overweight (because high-fibre foods tend to be filling), heart disease and problems with insulin.
Suddenly increasing your fibre intake can trigger uncomfortable wind, bloating and stomach cramps, so if you want to boost the fibre in your diet plan, take things slowly and increase it gradually.
Ready to boost the fibre in your healthy eating plan?
- Make the switch from white or brown bread to wholemeal
- Instead of your usual bread, ring the changes with rye bread or dark crisp bread
- Choose a high–fibre cereal for breakfast like rolled oats, bran flakes or a good muesli
- Try a yoghurt with added grains
- Try some baked beans on wholegrain toast
- Boost breakfast cereals with some nuts, seeds or dried fruit
- Snack on fruit, fresh or dried
- Add peas, beans and lentils to casseroles, curries and soups.
Refining grains in food manufacture (removing the outer layers and husk to make white flour and white rice etc) removes most of the fibre. Therefore, wholegrain varieties are best.
Good fibre providers include:
Whole grains like wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn, brown rice and foods that are made from:
- Fresh or dried fruit and fresh vegetables (especially with the skins on)
- Peas, beans, lentils and corn
- Nuts and seeds
Are you getting enough?
Most Australians consume about 20g of fibre daily, yet experts recommend around 25–30g per day. This equals about five serves of vegetables, two serves of fruit and four serves of bread, cereals, rice pasta or noodles every day.
One serve of vegetables is:
- 1 cup of salad
- 1 medium potato
- 1/2 cup of vegetables or legumes
One serve of fruit is:
- 1medium fruit e.g. apple, pear, orange or banana
- 2 small fruit like plums, apricots or kiwi fruit
- 1 cup of diced or canned fruit
- 4 pieces of dried fruit (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of sultanas/raisins)
- 1/2 a glass of juice (125ml)
- One serve of carbohydrate foods is:
- 2 slices of bread
- 1 bread roll
- 1 cup of cooked rice/pasta/noodles
- 1 cup cooked porridge
- 1 1/3 cups breakfast cereal
- 1/2 cup muesli
If you want to supplement the fibre in your diet for a while, try adding some psyllium husk to foods and drinks. Raw bran is a concentrated source of fibre, but it can irritate your gut causing flatulence and making some digestive disorders worse. It can reduce the absorption of some nutrients too, like zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium. So it might be better to focus on getting fibre from the foods you eat.
For fibre to function properly, make sure you drink plenty of fluids (around six to eight glasses of water daily). If you increase your fibre intake but don’t increase fluids, it might actually trigger constipation and other nasties.