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What is fibre & is all fibre equal?

Strawberries on a delicious high fibre wholegrain bread
Over 90% of us don’t get enough fibre, but why is it so important? Let’s learn more about fibre, how to get it, and its different types.
Fibre doesn’t have a glamorous reputation. But it does more than keep your bowels moving: it can lower your risk of developing serious diseases like stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.1 Yet over 90% of us don’t get enough...2,3

What is fibre?

It’s a complex carbohydrate found in the plants we eat, that can’t be digested by the small intestine. Instead, it’s broken down inside the large intestine by bacteria for food.4 The NHS says we should aim for 30g of fibre per day. But most adults only eat about 20g.1 Read on, and we’ll help you meet the goal!

The different types of fibre

Fibre comes from plant foods and is classified by its fermentability, solubility, and viscosity. Almost all fibres contain these, but in different proportions.5 Not all fibre is the same, and each has different effects on your health. So, you’ll need to eat a variety of fibre-rich foods to get each kind. The 3 main types of dietary fibre are:
  1. Soluble
    This type of fibre – found in fruit, vegetables, beans, and oats – attracts water in the digestive system to form a gel-like substance. This can slow digestion and help to soften stools (poo) so it’s easier to pass.6
  2. Insoluble
    Insoluble fibre isn’t digested in the gut. It adds bulk to your stools and helps food to be pushed through your digestive system. This means it can help keep your bowel movements regular and help prevent constipation.6 You can find insoluble fibre in brown rice, brown bread, some breakfast cereals, and nuts.6
  3. Resistant starch
    Though it’s called “starch”, this is also a type of fibre, since it isn’t digested in your stomach or small intestine.7 Sources of resistant starch include bananas, potatoes, grains, and beans.7

Why is fibre so important?

Getting enough fibre isn’t just about encouraging regular bowel movements:

It can support your heart health
According to the NHS and the British Heart Foundation, a higher fibre intake reduces the risk of heart disease.1 7 Plus, research from 2022 found “likely benefits” of eating more dietary fibre amongst patients with cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.8

It can help you regulate your blood sugar
The NHS says that eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.1 Also, fibre-rich foods tend to keep you feeling fuller for longer, helping to control your appetite and provide a sustained source of energy.9 This can help keep your blood sugar steadier than foods high in refined (“simple”) carbs and sugar, which quickly spike your levels.10
It can help you manage your weight

Fibre helps us feel fuller, so fibre-rich foods can be a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight or manage your appetite.4

Research from The Lancet, looking at 4635 adults, found significantly lower body weight in those who had higher intakes of dietary fibre.11 

 ...and it may even help you live longer

The same report from The Lancet found that people eating more than 25g of fibre per day were 15-30% less likely to die from heart disease and stroke than those eating under 15g.11

Scientists found that more fibre was linked to overall lower blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels.11

How much fibre do we need?

Adults need 30g a day, according to the NHS – but most only get about 20g.1 Check your food labels: 3g of fibre per 100g is a “source of fibre”, and 6g per 100g is “high fibre”.3

How to eat more fibre

You’ll need to increase your intake slowly to allow your gut to adjust. Otherwise, you might get gassy!7 Introduce one new serving at a time.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water, too. Fibre absorbs water, so you need to drink enough to keep stools soft. Aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid a day.6

Also, try these high-fibre ideas:
  • Make your own muesli with oats, nuts, seeds, and fruit 
  • Stir beans and lentils into stews and curries
  • Choose wholegrain versions of starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta, and bread
  • Leave the skin on fruit and veg
  • Eat your pasta and potatoes cooked, then cold or reheated: research shows that it increases the amount of resistant starch 12

The final say

Don’t worry about reaching the 30g goal straight away! Start slowly and gradually, and work your way up to a variety of fibre-rich options, until you’re getting what you need.

Our guide to the best high fibre foods is a good place to begin...

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

Sources

 

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