Are You Eating Enough Fibre? |

Are You Eating Enough Fibre?

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Are you getting enough fibre? Chances are, probably not. While the NHS recommends we eat 30g a day, statistics suggest the majority of British adults are only consuming around half the amount of fibre they should be. From why fibre is so important to why it’s fallen out of favour, read on for the full scoop...

Firstly – what exactly is fibre?

Put simply, fibre is plant roughage – the part of veggies, fruits, beans, grains, nuts and seeds that resists digestion. The likes of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are all devoid of fibre. There are two forms of fibre: soluble, which is broken down by the body, helping to soften stools in order to pass smoothly through the bowel and insoluble fibre, which is not broken down and gives substance to your stool, helping other foods to move through the digestive system more easily. Both types of fibre help the body in different ways, so a healthy, balanced diet should include both types.

So what are the benefits?

A fibre-rich diet will sustain regular bowel movements; preventing constipation and helping to clean out the digestive system, getting rid of waste (namely extra hormones, cholesterol, toxins and waste) that shouldn’t be there. Fibre also provides a plethora of other health benefits, including maintaining healthy colon function and a strong immune system, faster metabolism and weight control (high fibre foods take up more space in the stomach and make you feel fuller for longer), diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention, beautiful skin and better overall health. Recent studies suggest getting your daily quota of fibre can reduce the risk of heart disease by 40% and decrease your risk of suffering a stroke by 7%.

How much do you need on a daily basis?

This is where it starts to get interesting. At present in the UK, there is no set recommended daily allowance, but health experts, including the NHS, recommend adults have around 30g per day. As a benchmark, foods that contain at least 6g of fibre per 100g are considered to be high fibre foods, while those containing at least 3g per 100g are considered to be a source of fibre. A recent study revealed 90% of British women were consuming less than 18g per day – a statistic that has been backed up by countless others. 

On a Similar Note

Why are we struggling to get enough fibre?

Some health experts say the rise in low-carb and gluten-free diets – which cut out the likes of wholemeal bread, pasta and some fruits and vegetables in favour of low-fibre protein sources – could be behind our low fibre intake. Interestingly, low-carb diets have been shown to alter our gut bacteria – this is because fibre, often lacking in a low-carb diet, is fermented in the large intestine and our gut bacteria use this fibre as fuel to flourish and grow.

What are good sources of fibre?

Good sources of soluble fibre include the majority of fruit and vegetables, oats, flaxseeds, beans and peas. Meanwhile, rich sources of insoluble fibre span wholemeal bread, bran, cereals and nuts and seeds. Surprisingly good sources of fibre include avocados (a whole fruit contains around 13g of fibre, depending on the size), corn, artichokes, dark chocolate and coconut.

Is it possible to have too much fibre?

Possibly. Some health experts do say there is such a thing as too much fibre, especially if you try to up your intake overnight, which can cause bloating and gas (when you eat too much fibre too quickly it can’t be digested or broken down and as a result, bacteria that live in the colon digest some of the remaining fibre and create gas as a by-product). At the same time, excess fibre can cause both constipation and diarrhoea – if you eat lots of fibre but struggle to drink adequate amounts of water, this can lead to dehydration of the GI tract and cause constipation. On the flip side, excessive amounts of insoluble fibre, such as broccoli, lentils and nuts can lead to diarrhoea. Likewise, those with sensitive digestive systems and IBS sufferers should avoid excessive amounts of fibre.
Some health experts even say too much fibre can lead to mineral deficiencies. As a natural binding agent, fibre can also bind to nutrients and cause them to be eliminated before the body has had a chance to absorb them. This process most commonly affects iron, chromium, copper, zinc and calcium absorption. However, it’s worth noting your fibre intake would have to be around 40g on a regular basis for this to be an issue.

The bottom line?

“Unless you’re a strict vegan or vegetarian, chances are you’re not eating enough fibre,” explains registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. “Pretty much everyone could benefit from boosting their intake,” she stresses. Looking to up your fibre intake? Follow our top tips for getting more fibre in your daily diet for optimal gut health...

  • Up the veg: Make an effort to fill half your plate with a variety of vegetables at each meal and remember to keep the skin on your potatoes.

  • Eat grains: Cereals and grains are cheap to buy and easy to cook – look to wheat, oats, barley and rye. A daily bowl of porridge is a good place to start.

  • Boost your salad: Sprinkle fibre-rich seeds over salads or even avocado on toast.

  • Reconsider your snacks: Popcorn, fruit dipped in nut butter, seeds and wholegrain crackers with hummus or bean dips are high-fibre options.

  • Consider your smoothies: If you’re a fan of smoothies but concerned they don’t deliver where fibre is concerned, add a couple of teaspoons of baobab powder, which is nearly 50% fibre.

  • Add pulses: Add legumes such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas to stews and casseroles.

  • Don’t ditch bread: Carbs needn’t be the devil, especially when wholemeal, wholegrain and multi-seed breads pack a fibre punch, often up to 5g per slice.



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