Why You Really Need Fibre in Your Diet

Would you believe that on average, people in the UK don’t eat enough fibre?  The recommended intake is 30g per day, but the average intake is 17.2g for women and 20.1g for men. 

Low fibre intake is generally associated with constipation and some gut diseases with high fibre diets have been seen to reduce cholesterol, diabetes risk and help protect against certain cancers. 

But there are further benefits of a fibrous diet, so let us take a look. 

Fibre is technically a carbohydrate, so whilst many tout no carbs before Marbs, you may want to reconsider.

Carbohydrates are made up of three components, fibre, starch and sugar.  Sugar is a simple carb, having fewer molecules to digest and break down, it sends an immediate burst of glucose into the blood stream.  Fibre and starch however are complex carbs, having longer chains of molecules.  Starch takes longer to digest, having a more gradual effect on the body, and well fibre, is a non-digestible complex carbohydrate.  Although it’s not digestible, it can be fermented in the gut, and this is where we reap many of its rewards.

Fibre for Gut Health

When fibre is fermented in the gut, it produces compounds known as short-chain fatty acids or SCFAs.  These guys can provide fuel for intestinal cells, strengthen the gut barrier, and keep those tight junctions nice and, well, tight.  SCFAs also stimulate mucous production, which actually forms another barrier in the gut – this plays an important role in protecting against harmful pathogens. 

Fibre for Mental Health

In addition, SCFA’s can also affect our mood!  They affect levels of neurotransmitters (which are the chemical messengers in the body’s nervous system) that can alter how we feel and behave.  Higher levels of butyrate, one of the SCFA’s, have been seen to improve mood and reduce anxiety scores.

But its not only SCFA’s that can influence our mood.  Certain bacteria produce certain neurotransmitters too.  For example, lactobacillus bacteria produce the neurotransmitter GABA which is seen as the main inhibitory neurotransmitter.  This contributes to feelings of calm.

Fibre for Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease is an inflammatory disease and diet is often considered the cornerstone for treatment. Many studies have demonstrated that high amounts of dietary fibre can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is thought that fibre reduces cholesterol and fatty acid absorption and reduces glucose absorption along with decreasing insulin secretion. 

Fibre for Bowel Health

Less-fermentable fibre can act as bulking agents and help prevent constipation, but with any increase in fibre, fluid intake should increase too!  Dietary fibre is also thought to be protective against colorectal cancer.

Sources of Fibre:

40g oats – 3.1g fibre count

1 slice rye bread – 3.6g fibre count

½ cup quinoa – 5.6 fibre count

70g broccoli – 2.8g fibre count

160g new potatoes – 2.9g fibre count

80g beans – 3.3g fibre count

64g raspberries – 4.3g fibre count

1 medium pear – 4.3g fibre count

28g almonds – 4.5g fibre count

96g red lentils – 4.7g fibre count

½ tin green lentils – 9.2g fibre count

1 cup cannellini beans – 7.2g fibre count

How are you getting your 30g of fibre a day?