Almost all chronic disease states can be improved or even prevented by eating more fibre.
Overweight and obesity:
Fibre takes a really long time to process in the gut and also absorbs fluids and swells out, which means you feel fuller for longer and you don’t eat as often. Eating less, and less often, means that you are likely to lose weight if you are overweight.
The food you consume is digested and absorbed in your gut, sugars and carbohydrates are broken down to glucose (sugars) and increase blood glucose levels when absorbed. Fibre is not readily digested, and slows the digestion and transit of sugars and carbohydrates, thereby effectively preventing a blood glucose spike and maintaining an even blood glucose level. Regularly including high fibre foods in your diet can help prevent the onset of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and can aid in prevention of blood glucose spikes if you are diabetic.
A diet high in fibre can help protect against heart disease. The role of processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar, as well as animal fat in excessive amounts, in causing heart disease has been well established. These foods increase bad cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Dietary fibre on the other hand, aids in lowering cholesterol. Fibre binds to dietary cholesterol in the gut, preventing absorption, and metabolite products of fibre fermented by colonic bacteria (the human gut cannot digest fibre by itself), inhibits the production of more cholesterol in the liver. Studies have shown that consuming as little as 5-10g fibre per day reduces blood cholesterol by 3-5%!!
Constipation and gut health:
Getting the right amount of fibre helps your body to pass stools regularly, and can even prevent colon cancer. Fibre is not digested by the human gut itself, it draws fluid into the gut, creating large soft stools, which pass easily, preventing constipation. It is however, very important that with large amounts of fibre, water intake must also be adequately increased to prevent constipation, if there is no water to draw into gut, stools will be hard and could cause constipation.
Good bacteria (probiotics) in the colon cause fermentation of indigestible fibre, and the metabolite products of this fermentation (butyric, propionic and acetic acids), provide food for colonocytes (colon cells). This helps maintain colon health, prevent inflammation, and prevent colon cancer. People who consume 35g of fibre per day, have on average a 40% lower risk of colon cancer than people who only consume 15g per day.
How to increase fibre intake:
White bread and processed grains that do not contain a lot of fibre should rather be replaced for higher fibre foods, like unprocessed, whole grains or vegetables and fruit. For example, corn flakes could be replaced with oats, all bran, or weetbix, white bread could be replaced for whole grain bread, cookies and crackers can be replaced with provita of ryvita. Consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day also contributes greatly to fibre intake.
Adults need about 25-30g of fibre in a day, which is surprisingly easy to reach:
A bowl of all bran with a banana cut up into it = 10g fibre
A cup of vegetables = 10g
2 slices of brown bread = 5g
Even such small diet changes to increase fibre intake can have massive disease-fighting effects!
Over the next few weeks, I will post simple recipes and ideas for high fibre meals and snacks. I hope that this will inspire you to increase your fibre intake and give your body a fighting chance.
If you struggle with any of the above health issues, or with fibre intake, please contact a dietitian or other healthcare provider.
Rolfes, S.R., Pinna, K., & Whitney, E. (2012) Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 9th edition, Wadsworth.
I am a registered dietitian, and this is my blog.
Please don't see it as anything other than a blog; general information, snippets that I find interesting, and recipes that I enjoy. It is not meant to replace individual healthcare from myself or other healthcare professionals.