What’s so good about fibre that has everyone from grandmothers to doctors and dieticians recommending it?

A little-known fact (except among us nutrition nerds) is that fibre is a carbohydrate. All carbohydrates are glucose molecules held together by links or bonds. These bonds are broken down via the digestive system, allowing the glucoses to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. However, the bonds linking glucose molecules in fibre cannot be broken down by the body. Instead, fibre continues its journey downwards through the intestines and exits the body.

When fibre isn’t broken down, it can’t deliver anything in the way of nutrients. So, what IS so good about fibre that has everyone from grandmothers to doctors and dieticians recommending it?

The benefits of fibre are that it:

  • provides fuel for the good bacteria (probiotics) in the lower bowel. These probiotic bacteria, after feasting on the fibre, produce a host of valuable compounds that can lower cholesterol, improve our immunity and can help reduce certain cancers including colon cancer.
  • ‘holds’ water to bulk the stool. This is helpful for those who suffer from constipation, as well as the opposite complaint, diarrhoea. Fibre increases satiety, or the sense of fullness, helpful for those wanting to lose weight.
  • helps remove toxins from the body.

Three ways to get more fibre in your diet

1. Vegetables over salad Salad vegetables such as lettuce, rocket and radicchio are delicious and provide vitamin K, C, beta-carotene and iron. However, as a vegetable, they are fibre-poor. Enjoy your salads, but also add some fibre-rich vegetables to your diet daily such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, beans and peas.

2. Replace fruit and vegetable juice with fruit and vegetablesIf you have ever used a juicer, you will have seen the pulp left behind after extracting the juice. This pulp is fibre. Fruit juice, in particular, is usually too high in sugar and misses out on the valuable fibre that fruit in its unprocessed form offers.

3. Less processed is best Wherever possible choose the least processed option. For instance, choose brown rice over white, 100% wholemeal bread over white or even multigrain. Whole grains contain double the fibre of their refined cousins. Taking this unprocessed concept further, eat potatoes with the skin (even mashed tastes good), bake pumpkin with the skin on…while you’re at it bake the seeds too. Fruit: don’t peel that apple, pear or even grape. Enjoy them seeds, peel and all.