Choose the right fibre for the clothing we wear and it helps our outer body feel good – and if we choose the right type and amount of fibre to eat then that will help our inner body feel good.
The human diet needs to be rich in fibre. Fibre, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body’s digestive system can’t break down.
Passing through the body undigested, this roughage keeps the digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body.
An analysis of middle- and older-age adults found that those who ate fibre in at least three of their daily meals saw health-risk factors reduced with “smaller bumps in blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and waist size, compared to those who ate very little fibre”.
As The Independent explains, “..a diet of fibre-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Indeed, the evidence for fibre’s benefits extends beyond any particular ailment. People who eat more of it simply have lower odds of dying.”
For the body to get the right amount of daily fibre, whole grains should replace refined grains, for example by eating wholemeal brown bread instead of processed white bread
Choosing foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller, while a diet rich in fibre can help digestion and prevent constipation.
Eating plenty of fibre is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
30 grams of fibre daily
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming about 14 grams of fibre daily for every 1,000 calories consumed.
This translates to some 24 grams of fibre daily for women and 38 grams for men.
Unfortunately, average intakes by most people are around 20g a day, with the average daily fibre intake in countries like America estimated to be only 16.2 grams.
The best way to boost daily intake is to make sure that as well as choosing higher-fibre options at meals, snacks during the day are rich in fibre too.
Fibre tends to be the word used as a blanket term that applies to any type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, but there are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, each with its own task to keep the body functioning well.
Soluble and insoluble
Soluble fibres dissolve in water easily and make a gel-like substance in the stomach. They help in controlling blood sugar levels and also to lower cholesterol levels.
Insoluble fibres do not dissolve throughout the alimentary canal, which runs from where the food enters the body to where it exits, and pass through it intact.
These bulky insoluble fibres do not provide calories to the individual but help in the management of constipation.
An apple a day
The best sources of insoluble fibres are nuts, whole grain food, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes..and apples.
When following the advice to eat an apple a day, or more, it is best to eat apples with their skin as half of the vitamin content is just underneath the skin, plus, the skin also increases insoluble fibre content.
The edible but indigestible portion of plant foods, the cellulose and lignin, provides us with dietary fibre as the roughage our digestive system needs to function effectively, including caring for the bacteria in the alimentary canal.
“The soluble fibre provides food for beneficial bacteria in the intestines and these bacteria produce the fatty acids which feed the cells of the gut.”
Fibre leaves the stomach undigested and ends up in the colon, where it feeds friendly gut bacteria, leading to many health benefits.
“More than 500 bacterial species, friends and foes, enrich or impoverish our intestinal flora, the microbiota.”
The more fibre you eat, the more substrates (feeding surfaces) the microbiome has available.”
“The microbiota of each of us is unique just like our fingerprints and it is an integral part of our body and plays an essential role for ensuring our good health.
More numerous than all the stars in our galaxy, the billions of microorganisms that make up our microbiota co-exist to form a rich and complex ecosystem..
..eating a lot of fibre is prescribed by nutritionists so as to satisfy the needs of the gut, which many scientists now consider to be our second, and much larger, brain.”
Fortunately for those who are able to easily find the ingredients of the well-known Mediterranean diet, it includes every food type needed to ensure high levels of fibre consumption.
Wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, (such as beans,soybeans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, lentils), fruits, and vegetables provide the basis for the needed fibre.
Other foods that are rich in roughage are cereals (oatmeal, bran flakes), grains (wheat bran, barley, brown rice).
Carrots, broccoli and spinach are good examples of vegetable high in fibre, and peaches, bananas and apples are examples of fruits with high fibre content.
“By eating muesli regularly,and with added fruit, you’ll be drastically improving your heart health.
Adding vitamin C can help lower your cholesterol too, boosting your heart health even more – do your heart another favour and add lemon juice to your mixture.”
A peach a day
One medium-sized peach provides about 2 grams of fibre, half of which is soluble fibre, while the other half is insoluble fibre.
Peach flowers are another part of the fruit that may benefit digestion and are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive disorders.
Fruits that are high in fibre include pears, apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges and dried fruits – raisins, apricots, dates, and plums.
Best nuts and seeds for fibre content are peanuts and walnuts so it looks like a great all-fibre combo to enjoy could be a peanut butter, banana and peach jam sandwich in a wholemeal granary bread sandwich.
30 grams of daily fibre
To help ensure consumption of the daily recommended amount of 30 grams of daily fibre, here is a selection of the fruit and veg that have the highest fibre content to eat as part of the advised five-a-day.
Dates, 8 grams in a handful of dates
Apple, 4.4 grams in a medium-sized, raw apple
Pear, 5.5 grams in a medium-sized, raw pear
Avocado, 10 grams per cup of raw avocado
Raspberries, 8 grams per cup of raspberries
Bananas, 3.1 grams in a medium-sized banana
Almost all vegetables contain significant amounts of fibre.
Carrots, 3.6grams per cup
Beetroot, 3.8 grams per cup
Brussels sprouts, 3.3 grams per cup
Jacket potato, 2.2 grams
Cooked lentils, 13.1 grams per cup
Kidney beans, 12.2 grams per cup of cooked beans
Cooked chickpeas, 12.5 grams per cup..delicious as hummus
Heinz Baked beans, 5.5 grams per cup
And here’s a recommendation for a high-fibre content lunch..
A baked jacket potato with the skin on (2.6g) with a 200g portion of reduced-sugar and reduced-salt baked beans in tomato sauce (9.8g) followed by an apple (1.2g) and a peach (2g) to give you around 18g of fibre if you also include a small handful of nuts on the side to provide a further 3g of fibre.
If breakfast has been a fibre-filled bowl of muesli, by the time you get to the end of the day you’ll be satisfied that your fibre-filled evening meal will complete your daily fibre requirement to keep your gut and brain healthy and well.
Jon Lewes 2021 @clicGibraltar