By Paul Stevenson
In this article I explore the role of Fibre in the diet. As we will see, it is a hugely important, but often overlooked part of the diet. I want to explore the role of fibre and it’s benefits to our overall health and well-being.
What is Fibre?
There are 2 distinct types of fibre: dietary fibre and functional fibre. Dietary fibre refers to non-digestible (to humans) carbohydrates and lignin that are intact and intrinsic in plants. Functional fibre consists of non-digestible carbohydrates that have been isolated, extracted, or manufactured and have been shown to have beneficial physiological effects in humans (Gropper & Smith, 2012). ‘Fibre’ is a very broad term that encompasses a lot of different characteristics.
Another distinction to be made is whether fibre dissolves in water, which would be soluble, or whether it does not, which would be insoluble. Foods typically rich in soluble fibre include legumes, oats, barley, some fruit (berries, bananas, apples, pears) and some vegetables (carrots, broccoli, artichoke and onions). Foods typically rich in insoluble fibre include whole-grain products, wheat bran, nuts, seeds and some vegetables.
Water soluble fibres tend to have a large capacity to hold water (you can think of fibre as a dry sponge that soaks up water and digestive juices as it moves through the digestive tract.
Soluble fibres tend to be degraded/fermented in the colon. The process of fermentation provides energy for microbial growth in the gut and produce short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids are important as they provide energy for the body, help boost the immune system, helps to lower cholesterol and improves blood flow in the colon (Gropper & Smith, 2012).
Those fibres that cannot be fermented are also extremely valuable to the health of your gut and digestive system. Non-fermentable fibres are important in detoxification and increasing fecal bulk.
What are the Benefits of Fibre?
Diets rich in fibre are beneficial in the prevention and/or management of numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity/weight management, gastrointestinal disorders, and Type II Diabetes.
Particularly pertinent to us are the benefits of fibre on weight management. Fibre-rich foods tend to have a low energy-density and a high volume, which can promote satiety. Foods rich in fibre also delay gastric-emptying (increases the time it takes food to pass through the gut), having the effect of keeping you feeling fuller for longer and reducing hunger. This is one of the reasons our Clean Health Fitness Institute coaches recommend diets high in fibre, consisting of whole, minimally-processed foods.
How Much Fibre Should we be Consuming?
Recommended daily fibre intakes are 38g for men and 31g for women. There is no suggested upper-limit to fibre intake, but anything above 50g per day is generally not recommended in Western countries. Common complaints with ‘over’-consumption include abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and altered stool output.
To obtain enough fibre through the diet, food sources of fibre need to be varied. Focusing on eating whole foods, with plenty of fruit and vegetables is absolutely crucial & is a message we like to promote here at the Clean Health Fitness Institute. For more information on our industry leading nutrition and training programs both face to face or online CONTACT US today!