Fibre in the Diet
Plays a Vital Role

The importance of fibre in the diet should never be overlooked, it is an essential part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.

A diet high in fibre has many immediate and long term health benefits, including but not limited to; improving digestive and bowel health, controlling weight gain and cholesterol levels and preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Eating enough fibre is also relatively easy to do, however many of us regularly fall short of our daily recommended 30g simply by making poor nutritional choices. Fibre is only found in plant foods, it is the indigestible part otherwise known as cellulose, foods such as meat, fish and dairy products don't contain any fibre at all.

These indigestible parts or compounds of plants pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines and are divided into three different categories; soluble, insoluble and resistant starch.

Soluble fibre, found in fruit, oats and beans is partially digested in the stomach and intestines. It forms a gel like substance when exposed to water, which helps to move waste through the digestive tract, soluble fibre also plays a significant role in lowering cholesterol.

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Insoluble fibre or roughage as it is commonly called does not dissolve in water and cannot be digested, it moves through the intestinal tract providing bulk and promoting regularity. Great sources of insoluble fibre are unprocessed grains including grain based breads and cereals. Wheat bran too is a valuable source but perhaps the best source is fresh fruits and vegetables.

The third type of fibre, resistant starch, can be found in fruits such as bananas and legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas and other whole grains. It is thought to play a role in protecting the gut from colon cancer.

Keep it simple and keep it balanced

Increasing your daily fibre intake need not involve complex dietary changes, simply substituting whole grains for processed or ‘white’ variations of bread, pasta and cereals is a great start.  While generally eating two pieces of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day will cover at least half of your daily requirements, include some nutty snacks and legumes on a regular basis and you are well on the way to consuming enough fibre in your diet.

Importantly though, too much fibre in the diet can cause bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. Also if increasing your intake do it gradually to ensure your digestive system can accommodate the changes.

When purchasing food keep in mind many packaged products may claim to be high in fibre but lack the goods where it really counts and may often contain high levels of fats, sugars or salts. Unprocessed whole foods are the best sources of natural fibre, keep it simple and keep it balanced.

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