Why you should make friends with fibre, according to a nutritionist

Protein, we're going to have to ask you to step aside for the moment.

By Julia Giampietro • 3 years ago • HEALTH & FITNESS

 

Out of all the macronutrients, the health and fitness world seems to have this never-ending obsession with protein – but ask a nutritionist, and they’ll tell you there’s another little superstar contender that isn’t getting nearly enough airtime as it deserves.

“According to the CSIRO, six out of ten Aussies aren’t eating enough fibre,” shares nutritionist, Anna Warren. Not only does adequate fibre intake assist in digestion and help everything ‘flow’ nicely, it also improves satiety and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Think you could do with more fibre in your diet? Don’t know how or where to start? Read on to see how you can boost your intake and keep your tummy happy!


Why is important to include fibre in your daily diet and what are the benefits of?

With gut health taking a leap into the nutritional limelight, fibre has quickly earnt its place in the macronutrient hall of fame – and rightly so! With a list of credentials longer than your small intestine, there’s a reason fibre’s been fittingly dubbed ‘nature’s broom’.

For those not yet acquainted, fibre is better known as the indigestible portion of plant-based foods. The complex carbohydrate passes through the stomach and intestines relatively unchanged, collecting waste and keeping the gastrointestinal system in check.

Beyond providing a solid digestive boost, fibre helps to keep our bellies full, our cholesterol and blood sugar levels low and plays an important role in bolstering the immune system, which in turn protects our precious little bods from harmful pathogens.

What are some common sources of fibre?

Fibre is only present in plant-based foods, with the miracle macronutrient found in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Despite common preconceptions, wholegrains aren’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to fibre, with peas, lentils, beans, artichokes, broccoli, berries, avocado and pears bursting at their fibrous seams.

For those who follow a gluten-free diet, what are some alternative fibre options?

Gluten free definitely doesn’t have to mean low fibre. Sub out wheat and barley for gluten-free alternatives like amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and teff. If you ask me, these versatile little guys taste far better than boring old wheat anyway! Cue the quinoa porridge.

Can you please explain the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre?

Fibre comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble – both of which are generally found in combination in most plant based foods. Soluble fibre attracts water and forms a gel in the stomach which slows digestion and in turn plays a nifty little role in lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, remains unchanged all the way through the colon and exhibits its heroism by increasing stool bulk and motility so that waste can glide through your insides with ease.

What are some easy ways people can include adequate fibre in their diets?

With a recommended dietary intake of 25 to 30 grams per day, upping your fruit and veggie game is by far the easiest way to make sure you meet your nutritional needs when it comes to fibre. In a country spoilt in fresh produce there really is no reason not to polish off a pear in order to meet your daily dose. Embracing nuts and seeds in all their fibrous glory is another tactful way to bump up your intake, as is gracing your plate with a serve of beans, chickpeas or lentils.

How can one comfortably go from a low fibre to a high fibre diet without too much disruption to the gut?

Rule number one when increasing your intake of fibre, is doing so slowly. Very slowly. Throwing yourself into an all-out fibre frenzy can end in gas, bloating, stomach pains and a whole lot of tears. The trick is to increase your consumption gradually over a few weeks so that you and your belly have time to adjust. As you increase your fibre intake, it’s equally important to bump up your fluids as well. Fibre draws water into the intestines, so without adequate hydration, the digestive luminary can aggravate rather than alleviate constipation.

Image: iStock


Anna Warren | The Nutrition Collective@thenutritioncollective


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