Fibre - The Forgotten Macro
What is Fibre?
Dietary fibre is a plant-based nutrient. It is a type of carbohydrate but, unlike other carbs, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. Therefore, fibre passes through the intestinal tract relatively intact. However, on its journey, fibre does a lot of work.
Soluble or Insoluble?
Fibre can be put into two categories: soluble and insoluble. The difference being, one dissolves in water and one does not, as the name explains.
Both soluble and insoluble fibres have important benefits. Soluble fibre is known to help decrease blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It also helps lower blood cholesterol.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, speeds up the passage of food through the digestive system. This helps maintain regularity and prevent constipation. It also increases faecal bulk, which makes stools easier to pass.
Most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, but the amounts of each vary in different foods.
Foods typically rich in soluble fibre include legumes, oats, barley, some fruit (berries, bananas, apples, pears) and some vegetables (carrots, broccoli, artichoke and onions). Foods typically rich in insoluble fibre include whole-grain products, wheat bran, nuts, seeds and some vegetables.
What are the Benefits of Fibre?
Diets rich in fibre are beneficial in the prevention and/or management of numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity/weight management, gastrointestinal disorders, and Type II Diabetes.
Particularly pertinent to us are the benefits of fibre on weight management. Fibre-rich foods tend to have a low energy-density and a high volume, which can promote satiety. Foods rich in fibre also delay gastric-emptying (increases the time it takes food to pass through the gut), having the effect of keeping you feeling fuller for longer and reducing hunger. This is one of the reasons Fitbodies recommends diets high in fibre, consisting of whole, minimally-processed foods.
How Much Fibre Should we be Consuming?
Recommended daily fibre intakes are 38g for men and 31g for women. There is no suggested upper-limit to fibre intake, but anything above 50g per day is generally not recommended in Western countries. Common complaints with ‘over’-consumption include abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and altered stool output.
To obtain enough fibre through the diet, food sources of fibre need to be varied. Focusing on eating whole foods, with plenty of fruit and vegetables is absolutely crucial & is a message we like to promote here.