We talk a lot about fibre ‘round these parts – and with good reason! Fibre is both one of the most important micronutrients and most ignored, with the majority of us not getting enough. But what is fibre anyway? And why do we need it?
You need it, and you probably don’t get enough of it
Think of fibre like the janitor of your gut, keeping everything clean and tidy with its big, many-bristled broom.
Fibre is a structural component of plants that we get when we eat fruits, veggies, nuts and other plant-based foods. It isn’t digested and utilised in the same way as nutrients like carbohydrates and protein, but it plays a key role in digestion, metabolism and gut health. It regulates waste flow (yep, your poop) and makes you feel full and satisfied when you eat.
There are two basic kinds of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and has been linked to lower blood cholesterol. Foods rich in this kind of fibre include oats, beans, apples, oranges and other citrus fruits, and carrots. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve as well, but it helps maintain the structure of your solid waste (poop again…), which makes it move more easily. Nuts, bran, beans and many green vegetables contain lots of insoluble fibre.
Not getting enough fibre has been linked to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. And yet, most of us overlook our body’s humble janitor.
To get enough fibre, the United States Food and Drug Administration recommends 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of veggies each day, but most of us don’t even come close to that target. In Singapore, a 2014 survey found that only 14.3 per cent of adults consumed at least two servings of both fruit and vegetables a day. The same survey revealed that 21.1 per cent of adults were getting less than 70 per cent of their recommended fibre.
Foods with fibre
The first step to getting more fibre into your diet is to know where to find it. Again, fruits and veggies are the most obvious source of fibre, so start there. And we mean whole fruit, not juice, which contains almost none of the original fruit’s fibre (but all of its sugar!). Instead, opt for a smoothie.
Next, choose high-fibre carbs. White rice, for example, has very little, with only 0.4 grams of fibre per 100 grams of rice. Oats, on the other hand, which topped our list of healthiest grains, has a whopping 11.6 grams of fibre.
Finally, go nuts. Nuts are absolutely loaded with dietary fibre. Chia seeds, for example, have 34.4 grams of fibre per 100 grams. Flax seeds have 27.3 grams, and almonds have 12.5 grams. Even the humble peanut has 9 grams of fibre. So do your body a favour and sprinkle some nuts on your next salad or smoothie.