Why is Fibre good for you?
Fibre is one of the main reasons whole plant foods are good for you.
There is strong evidence shows that adequate fiber intake may benefit your digestion and reduce your risk of chronic disease. Many of these benefits are mediated by your gut microbiota — the millions of bacteria that live in your digestive system.
Eating plenty of fibre (commonly referred to as roughage) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Choosing foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller, while a diet rich in fibre can help digestion and prevent constipation.
What is fibre?
Dietary fibre, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can't digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fibre isn't digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body.
Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn't dissolve.
- Soluble fibre. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fibre. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fibre foods.
Your best fibre choices
If you aren't getting enough fibre each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:
- Whole-grain products
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fibre. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron added back after processing, but not the fibre.
High-fibre foods are good for your overall health, particularly for digestive health. But adding too much fibre into your diet too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fibre in your diet gradually over a few weeks. This allows the beneficial bacteria in your gut to adjust to the change and thrive.
Also, drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.