For some reason, fibre just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Despite the fact that it provides just 8 kilojoules per gram and has numerous benefits, Australians tend to eat only about 18-25 grams per day. We believe that fibre is truly one of our best friends in health, so let us introduce you.
What is Fibre?
Fibre is a broad term used to describe a really special group of carbohydrates. Unlike other forms of carbohydrate, our bodies cannot digest fibre, which gives it unique health properties compared to other nutrients. Although there are numerous types of fibre, the two main types are insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve readily in water, includes cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins and is found mostly in the bran portion of whole grains like brown rice, wheat and others.
Soluble fibre tends to swell and form a gel when mixed with water (such as in your intestine) and includes pectins, gums and mucilages. Bacteria in the large intestine also easily metabolise soluble fibre. Oats, apples, bananas, barley and many beans are great sources of soluble fibre.
Benefits of Fibre
Most people are well aware that eating adequate fibre helps maintain intestinal health but may not understand how it actually works. Since fibre cannot be digested, it travels through the intestine attracting water along the way. This causes the stool to enlarge and soften, which enhances your body’s natural process of elimination as well as being good for bowel health.
A diet high in soluble fibre, like that found in oats and oat bran, can help reduce cholesterol reabsorption and therefore keep your heart healthy. The way this actually works is amazing. As soluble fibre passes through the digestive system, it binds up bile acids and removes them from the body. As it turns out, the body (actually the liver) makes bile acids from cholesterol. So in order to make new bile acids, the liver pulls cholesterol from the bloodstream, thereby lowering the cholesterol level in your blood. Soluble fibre can also bind up or trap some of the cholesterol from your diet, which can prevent cholesterol from entering your bloodstream in the first place.
Blood Sugar Control
A diet high in soluble fibre can slow the absorption of glucose (blood sugar) from the small intestine into your bloodstream. This effect can help maintain blood sugar levels.
How much fibre do you need?
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that men aged 19+ years or over should eat 30 grams of total fibre per day, and women 19+ years or over should eat 25 grams per day.
Fabulous Fibre Sources
Whole grains and beans are perhaps the most often overlooked terrific sources of fibre. Fruits and vegetables are also great choices when trying to increase your fibre. Keep in mind that animal foods, for the most part, are devoid of any fibre.