With all of the focus on carbs, protein and fats these days, there's one vital nutrient that often gets left behind: Fibre.
Fibre is a crucial nutrient we need for good health, yet it is not a topic talked about enough, primarily because of its association with "carbs" or carbohydrate rich foods, frowned upon by certain fad diets.
Thankfully, there are certain health experts returning to a discussion about the key role that fibre plays in our diet and raising the awareness about the many cultures who have thrived on fibre-rich plant-based diets for centuries and avoided most of today's common chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The reason why Fibre is so important to your health, lies with how it impacts the complex system known as your gut microbiome.
Fibre is found in plant foods - Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, Legumes and Whole grains.
A diet rich in fibre diet is crucial to a healthy life as it literally feeds the good bacteria in your gut, helping them to thrive. This means that a diet high in fibre, causes the good bacteria to get stronger and multiply, supporting your health in many ways, including by lowering inflammation and promoting healthy digestion, energy release and immunity.
A lack of quality fibre in your diet will cause the good bacteria in your gut to die, disrupting your immune system and eventually leading to a host of health problems, including poor digestion, fatigue, inflammatory skin conditions and even chronic disease.
It’s important to note that what you eat does directly affect your gut biome and fibre plays a really important role.
Whenever you eat a meal that has no or very little fibre, your body knows that it is going to have to work extra hard to process that meal without the assistance of healthy fibres to help extract the nutrients and move the waste bulk through the digestive tract and out of your body.
For this reason, you should include a large variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains into your regular diet in their most natural, unrefined state as possible.
So, what exactly is fibre?
"Nutrition Australia" defines fibre as: "The indigestible parts of plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes. It is a component of a carbohydrate that helps keep our digestive systems healthy."
Once digested into your stomach, fibre actually moves (mostly unchanged) into the colon where it is fermented by the good bacteria that live there. This keeps your small and your large intestine healthy.
It’s recommended that the average Australian eats at least 25-30g fibre each day. Eating this amount can help keep your digestive system healthy and to reduce your risk of common conditions and diseases such as:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Diverticular disease
- Colon Cancer
- Bowel Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Diabetes and;
There are two primary kinds of plant fibre:
In simple terms: insoluble fibre absorbs water to soften the contents of your bowels and to help keep you regular and your digestive system healthy. Insoluble fibre is mainly found in the surfaces of whole grains, cereals, nuts and seeds. Your best sources of insoluble fibre include:
- Whole grain breads and cereals;
- The outer skins of fruit and vegetables;
- Raw nuts and seeds and
- Lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas.
Soluble fibre is different to insoluble as it dissolves in water to form a thick gel in your intestines, slowing down digestion. Foods containing this type of fibre are great to help stabilise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. By slowing down digestion, foods that are high in soluble fibre can help people feel fuller for longer after eating, which is great for weight management.
Foods higher in soluble fibre include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables;
- Beans and lentils (legumes)
So, now you know how important fibre is to your gut environment and overall health, the next step is to get clear on some basic dietary principles to ensure that you actually eat enough fibre on a consistent basis.
1. Load up on Fruit & Vegetables
Most fruits and veggies are naturally very high in fibre; so you really can’t go wrong by simply increasing your daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Add a Banana or some Mango chunks to your morning smoothie.
Grab an apple or pear to munch when you're on the go! Eat a big green salad or wholegrain sandwich with healthy fillings for lunch.
Whip together a guacamole or a chickpea hummus and enjoy as a snack with some wholegrain crackers, or sticks of celery or carrots.
Fix some wild wholegrain rice, pasta or beans and top with your favourite stir fry veggie mix or homemade sauce for dinner.
2. Eat Seasonally
As well as being kinder on the wallet, eating what's in season is aligned to your bodies’ natural rhythm and the environment around you. The best way to eat seasonally is to shop at your local farmer's markets rather than supermarkets for your fresh produce.
When you do this, your eyes will be more open to the foods that naturally come forth during the different seasons and you will be attracted to the variety of colour and those fresh foods that are ripe and ready for you to eat.
3. Limit and replace your Processed Foods
Limit or avoid refined, processed foods as much as possible because these disrupt the health of your gut microbiome. As well as being high in sugars and other chemicals, refined foods generally don’t contain much healthy fibre at all. Swap our your processed breakfast cereals and white bread for homemade muesli, rolled oats or organic wholegrain bread for a healthier fibre-rich start to the day.
4. Swap out meat with lentils and other legumes
The more you can limit meat in your diet, the better for lots of reasons including your health, animal welfare and sustainability. One of the really important reasons to reduce or avoid meat is simply because meat does not contain any fibre at all, which is why meat consumption is linked to many diseases including Heart Disease and Colon Cancer.
Replace meat dishes with plant-based favourites, including kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, organic tofu or tempeh and even field mushrooms! Yes, it can take a little getting used to, but the more you consciously replace meat with healthier alternatives, the more you will rewire your tastebuds and emotional attachment as well.
Not only are these suggested options rich in protein, they're also loaded with fibres, making them a very healthy lunch or dinner choice.
5. Make Your Breakfast Fibre-Rich
Whether you eat breakfast soon after you rise, or you like to keep your fast going until mid morning, it is a great idea to make your first meal of the day a fibre-rich meal to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and to help sustain and energise you throughout the day.
Unfortunately most traditional breakfast foods, such as processed cereals, eggs and bacon have little or no quality fibre at all. Try swapping the packaged cereal for rolled oats, or prepare a big fruit salad with a sprinkling of raw nuts, or whizz up a plant milk smoothie.
If you want Toast with your avocado, organic eggs or jam, choose a high quality whole grain bread.
Another great breakfast or mid-morning option is a handful or two of our Pulse Sacred Meal crumbled over the top of a bowl of organic yogurt.
The Main Take Away
Fibre is a crucial nutrient to your health that is found in whole plant foods.
Your gut needs fibre to allow healthy bacteria to flourish, which is vital for supporting your immune system and ensuring you avoid a long list of ailments and diseases that stem from poor digestive health.
Be sure to include a wide variety of locally sourced fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains into your diet every single week and you will go a long way to supporting fantastic health, vitality and avoiding discomfort and dis-ease.
Tolman Self Care.