Fibre is one of those words that you see all the time on bread adverts and cereal boxes.Obviously it must be good for you, but why exactly? What's all the fuss about?
Fibre is the part of plant based foods that isn't broken down inside your body (good examples are seeds, peels, husks and so forth). Foods such as oats, apples, nuts and baked beans are all great sources of it. Unfortunately, if you're like the majority of Australians you're not eating anywhere close to the twenty five or so grams of fibre that you should be per day, and it could be affecting your health more than you think.
Increasing your fibre intake is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health and wellbeing. Here are five reasons why you should fit more fibre into your day.
Reason #1. You'll have faster, smoother visits to the bathroom
Fibre works hand in hand with water to add bulk to foods as they move through your digestive system. The water is absorbed into the fibre, causing it to soften and expand. Foods will pass through your digestive system more smoothly and regularly. Also, your poo will become soft and bulky, making it easy for your body to expel.
If you suffer from diarrhoea or constipation, preventing it could be as simple as including a little more fibre in your diet each day, or perhaps even drinking more water. Fibre cannot do its job within the body unless there is enough water for it to work with.
A good example is baked beans - like all beans, they're rich in fibre, but if you eat them you need to drink plenty of water as well. If, like most people you don't, you start to see why they're called 'rocket fuel'.
Eating heaps of fibre when you don't drink enough water can cause even more trouble than eating too little fibre. Make sure that anytime you increase your fibre intake, you drink plenty of water as well.
Reason #2. You'll decrease your bowel cancer risk
Fibre allows foods to pass smoothly and regularly through your body. If you're not getting enough fibre, foods could begin to build up inside your bowel. This means that anything harmful within the food will spend a lot more time in contact with your bowel walls. This isn't good for you, and may eventually lead to bowel cancer.
Image sourced from Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be. via Wikimedia Commons
Studies are still being done into the links between low fibre diets and bowel cancer and while including more high fibre foods in your diet may not prevent bowel cancer, it will help to lower the risk.
Reason #3. You'll lower your risk of heart disease
Heart disease happens when cholesterol builds up inside your arteries and eventually blocks them, meaning that the blood can't reach your heart. Blood carries oxygen, and without oxygen your heart won't be able to function anymore.
Fibre is found in plant foods. The more these foods are processed, the more the fibre is removed from them. Foods which are rich in fibre have had no or else very little processing - whole, natural foods are always better for you.
Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons
Fibre helps to remove unwanted cholesterol from your body. As fibre moves through your digestive system, cholesterol binds to the fibre. When the fibre is expelled by your body, the cholesterol will be expelled right along with it. This lowers your cholesterol and so decreases the risk of heart disease.
Reason #4. You won't have to snack on chocolate to keep you going until dinner
High fibre foods have more bulk than low fibre foods, which means that they make you feel fuller. For example, a bowl of muesli will fill you up a lot more than a bowl of cocoa pops. The fibre in the muesli (muesli has around 10 times the fibre of cocoa pops) means that it will take longer for the body to digest than the cocoa pops will. It will stay in your stomach for longer, so the feeling of fullness will last longer as well.
This means that you won't have to snack as often. If you're not snacking, you're not eating as much, and you'll eventually lose weight. This is especially true if your favoured snack foods are the usual thing like chocolate, lollies, and chips.
You'll also have longer lasting energy. Because the muesli digests more slowly, the energy inside it releases more slowly. That means it will last for longer. The cocoa pops will be digested quickly and give you a fast energy hit, but within an hour of eating you'll probably be fading. And when you're fading, you're probably going to reach for some chocolate to keep you going.
Reason #5. You'll be eating other good stuff at the same time, without even meaning to
When foods are refined, not only is the fibre removed, but a lot of other nutrients are lost as well. If you eat more fibre, chances are you'll also be eating more vitamins and minerals, without even realising. These nutrients have a huge array of health benefits including looking after your skin, nails, eyes, and hair. Iron keeps you feeling energetic and motivated, while calcium is great for your bones.
High fibre foods are generally lower in sugar, fat and salt as well, while still providing you with lasting energy. For example, cocoa pops and muesli will give similar amounts of energy and fat.
Muesli however, has double the amount of protein. At the same time, cocoa pops have roughly seven times as much salt, and three times as much sugar. Choosing muesli over cocoa pops won't just mean you are eating more fibre, you'll also be eating more protein, and a lot less sugar and salt.
Simply put, eating more high fibre foods will mean you're eating a generally healthier and more balanced diet. And who doesn't want that?