Written by Pete Crawshaw
What Is Dietary Fibre?
The word fibre is not likely to be new to any of us and I am sure we have all heard about the ability of fibre to ‘keep us regular’ but what is fibre and what role does it play within our bodies?
Dietary fibre is a form of carbohydrate derived from plants that unlike most food types is not absorbed by the digestive system into the bloodstream. As such it passes through the body and keeps our digestive system working at its best by controlling the speed of digestion and making stools softer which will make them easier to pass.
Fibre can be broken down into 2 main types.
Soluble Fibre And Insoluble Fibre
Sometimes referred to as fermentable fibre, as suggested by the name will dissolve in the gut to create a gel like substance which passes through the digestive system and keeps stools soft.
Where can I find Soluble fibre?
1) Root vegetables
2) Apples, bananas and other fruits
3) Beans and pulses
Also referred to as partially fermentable fibre can be found in
1) Wholemeal foods such as bread, pasta or brown rice
2) Potato skins
3) High fibre breakfast cereals
4) Nuts and seeds
This works in a more forceful way to push food through the digestive system and maintain gut health.
Most of these foods will contain both forms of fibre but will be richer in one than the other.
What Does Dietary Fibre Do?
Both soluble and insoluble fibre can help with digestive health. As fibre is not absorbed by the body it passes through the digestive system and keeps everything else inside your digestive system moving along with it. Eating plenty of fibre can prevent constipation and if you do end up suffering from constipation an increase in fibre, particularly insoluble fibre can help to get things moving again.
Soluble fibre is proven to bind to cholesterol particles and passes them through the digestive system. Porridge is one of the most commonly recommended nutritional remedies used to lower cholesterol levels.
Protection Against Diabetes
As fibre is not absorbed by the body it does not raise insulin levels in the same way other carbohydrate sources can. Soluble fibre can sometimes be used to keep both diabetes (type 1 and type 2) under control.
Fibre can play a vital role in weight loss in several ways so be careful with any diet plan that involves you ditching the carbohydrates because you will be removing a very valuable weapon from your arsenal. Not only is fibre very filling, therefore consuming it is a great way to keep away hunger pangs but the benefit of it keeping your digestive system healthy is also incredibly important in day to day life and especially when in a diet.
How Much Fibre Per Day?
The National Health Service believe that currently most people in the UK, on average consume around 18g of fibre a day but recommends adults aim for over 30g a day.
For children the guidelines are:
2-5 year olds: around 15g
5-11 year olds: around 20g
11-16 year olds: around 25g
16-18 year olds: around 30g
Now as a general guideline this is excellent and will keep most people in a very healthy state, but is it optimal for yourself?
I know many people reading this article may well be looking to build size and strength and many of you will hopefully aim to train much harder than most people do. If this is the case, then it is fairly safe to say that your calorie intake may well be much higher than the normal recommended levels.
It is important to increase your fibre intake accordingly. The more food you consume the harder your digestive system will be working to process it so you will need a higher daily dose.
A good guide would be to consume 14g of fibre for every 1000 calories in your diet. For some of you this may work out that you need much more fibre than the NHS would recommend.
If you aim to consume a form of fibre with each meal you will give yourself an excellent chance of hitting your fibre target each day.