DO YOU EAT ENOUGH FIBRE?

 

 

 

 

What is fibre?

Fibre is defined as "dietary material containing substances such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin, that are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes".

 

Fibre is the part of a plant-based complex carbohydrate that we cannot digest in the small intestine but makes it way down to the colon, which is vital for our bowels. (1)

 

Do we eat enough fibre?

You may have heard of soluble and insoluble fibre. 

 

Soluble fibre is to be found in fruit and vegetables, wholewheat grains, nuts and pulses. It turns into a gloop like substance in the stomach slowing down digestion which assists in maintaining steady glucose levels. Soluble fibre also attaches to particles of cholesterol and helps to remove them from the bloodstream. (2)

 

Insoluble fibre or cellulose passes through our bodies, relatively unchanged. It is vital for sweeping up debris in the colon preventing constipation and helping to make stools soft and bulky. Found in whole grains, beans and pulses and many of the same foods as a soluble fibre with most fruit and vegetables containing both. (3)

 

Why is fibre important?

Fibre is important to ease motility, prevent constipation, aid digestion and maintain healthy bacteria. Fibre-rich food can also help us to feel fuller and stop us from reaching out for snacks. A diet low in fibre is associated with many conditions including:-

  • high blood pressure,
  • excess weight,
  • bloating, constipation,
  • diabetes,
  • cardiovascular disease,
  • high cholesterol and
  • colon cancer. (4)
 

What is fibre?

Fibre is defined as "dietary material containing substances such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin, that are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes".

 

Fibre is the part of a plant-based complex carbohydrate that we cannot digest in the small intestine but makes it way down to the colon, which is vital for our bowels. (1)

 

Do we eat enough fibre?

You may have heard of soluble and insoluble fibre. 

 

Soluble fibre is to be found in fruit and vegetables, wholewheat grains, nuts and pulses. It turns into a gloop like substance in the stomach slowing down digestion which assists in maintaining steady glucose levels. Soluble fibre also attaches to particles of cholesterol and helps to remove them from the bloodstream. (2)

 

Insoluble fibre or cellulose passes through our bodies, relatively unchanged. It is vital for sweeping up debris in the colon preventing constipation and helping to make stools soft and bulky. Found in whole grains, beans and pulses and many of the same foods as a soluble fibre with most fruit and vegetables containing both. (3)

 

Why is fibre important?

Fibre is important to ease motility, prevent constipation, aid digestion and maintain healthy bacteria. Fibre-rich food can also help us to feel fuller and stop us from reaching out for snacks. A diet low in fibre is associated with many conditions including:-

  • high blood pressure,

  • excess weight,

  • bloating, constipation,

  • diabetes,

  • cardiovascular disease,

  • high cholesterol and

  • colon cancer. (4)

 

How much fibre is enough?

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 30g an adult, this coincides with an increase in the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables which is now up to 10 a day for a man and 7 - 8 for a woman (a portion size being 80g). Of these, it is advised that only 2 - 3 are fruit, and if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic this should be no more than one or two portions, and preferably berries, due to their low Glycemic Load. (5)

 

So are you getting enough fibre?

The average UK male adult consumes 20g and women around 17g of fibre a day, both a long way from the 30g recommendation. (6)

An average sized orange contains 3.1g of fibre, a 100g portion of cauliflower is between 1.6g, kale has 3.1g per 100g and raspberries knock them all out of range with 6.5g. So if you don't manage your recommended portions of fruit and vegetables it is hard to reach the target. (7)

 

By including nuts, seeds, whole grain bread,  beans and lentils fibre intake will be boosted as they all contain substantial amounts of fibre. 

 

How long does the digestion process last?

All foods break down at different rates and move through the stomach into the small intestine and onto the colon at their own rate. A Sunday dinner of roast potatoes, cabbage and chicken enjoyed at 1.0'clock will pass through the digestive tract and arrive in the colon at different times. (8)

 

The average duration is shown below, however, we are all individuals and eat a diverse variety of foods, so transit times vary. However, a good way to check is to eat a tablespoon of sweetcorn and note the length of transit time. The husk of sweetcorn is made of cellulose and is indigestible for us humans. (9)

 

50% of stomach contents emptied in 2.5 to 3 hours

Total emptying of the stomach 4 to 5 hours

50% emptying of the small intestine in 2.5 to 3 hours

Transit through the colon 30 to 40 hours (10)

 

Which foods are rich sources of fibre?

Well as we have previously stated fruit, vegetables, pulses and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre. Some of the highest fibre dense vegetables are broccoli, brussel sprouts and baked potatoes, with their skins. Prunes, pears and raspberries come out top of the fruit parade with lentils, black and pinto beans from pulses. Barley, bran flakes (no sugar added) and oats are some of the highest fibre dense grains.

 

In your quest to include more fibre try to include as much variety of foods as possible, with an aim of 50 different foods a week. This helps to feed the gut biome, which in turn maintains our immune and nervous systems. Try it out, herbs and spices are included, along with drinks, but wheat products such as toast and a bagel are counted as just the one item.

 

 
Some easy cheats to add more fibre to your day:
  • Add a tablespoon flaxseeds/chia seeds to your porridge with lots of berries,
  • when making chillis, casseroles,bolognaise, add more vegetables than normal, carrots, celery, mushrooms, obviously onions and garlic are all added flavour,
  • invest in a spirilizer and produce your own courgetti and butternut squash noodles aka boodles, use 50/50 with noodles if you are not a fan of vegetables, 
  • beetroot, peppers and sweet potato may all be used with a spiralizer, 
  • make cauliflower and broccoli rice, again it can be mixed with rice if preferred,
  • make your own tomato sauces with added carrots, celery, and herbs,
  • roast a mixed tray of vegetables,
  • make kale crisps with olive oil and add rock salt if required, 
  • add an extra portion of vegetables with lunch and dinner,
  • swop your white potato for a more nutritiously rich sweet potato,
  • juice with both fruit and vegetables combined.
     
Don't make life difficult for yourself, just remember that by increasing your fibre you may reduce some digestive issues, such as constipation and bloating. Whilst changes may seem hard and often too time consuming, it is all about changing perspective. If we believe that making our own tomato sauce is too much effort, we will continue to open a jar and nothing will change. Start small but aim big.
 
References
1) https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-fiber-digested-body-4829.html
2) https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html
3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322382.php
4) https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-fibre
5) https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html
6) https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html
7) https://www.prebiotin.com/prebiotin-academy/fiber-content-of-foods/
8)  Degen LP and Phillips SF. Variability of gastrointestinal transit in healthy women and men. Gut 39:299, 1996. (6) Metcalf AM, Phillips SF, Zinsmeister AR, etc. Simplified assessment of segmental colonic transit. Gastroenterology 92:40, 1987.
9 ) http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/why-sweet-corn-not-digested
10) Proano M, Camilleri M, Phillips SF, etc. Transit of solids through the human colon: regional quantification in the unprepared bowel. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 258:856, 1990.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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