In my last blog, I explored the trend of going gluten-free (click here to read) & explained how increasing your fibre intake is more beneficial to your health than choosing to eliminate gluten unnesessarily. Today we’ll explore more about fibre and why you need to be eating it!
I recently spoke with Dr Gina Levy, Senior Nutrition Manager at Kellogg’s, in more detail about the importance of fibre, practical tips on how to easily increase your fibre intake and the considerations we need to make when removing whole food groups from our diet.
Interview with Dr Levy: Fibre – Do You Eat Enough?
Me: Dr Levy, I recently blogged about the trend of going gluten-free and the potential health risks associated with eliminating gluten unnecessary from our diets. Following a gluten-free diet, with no medical diagnosis, can lead to reduced consumption of fibre or whole grains, which are both proven to aid with reducing our risk of developing many chronic diseases and healthy weight management. Could you explain to us what fibre actually is?
Dr Levy: That’s not always a simple question. Every country and territory has their own definition of what fibre actually is. But put simply, fibre is the non-digestible part of plant foods. Think of the stringy bits from your mango or the chewy skin on your apple – those are the fibre components. There are also other fibres that are not so obvious which are in the flesh of fruits and veggies and also imbedded in grains. They are the ones that form the jelly-like consistency of your porridge.
Me: What are the different types of fibre and how do they benefit our health?
Dr Levy: There are 3 main types of fibre in foods. One is called soluble which means when it mixes with liquid it dissolves to form a gel-like substance – that’s the fibre in your oat porridge. This type of fibre helps with lowering cholesterol levels and controls blood sugar.
The other fibre type is insoluble and that one can’t be dissolved. Instead, it moves all the way through to your colon where it helps you to go to the toilet. That’s the stringy bits of your fruit and veg and also the bran part of the grain.
The last one is the fermentable fibre. These types are the ones that feed all the good bugs living in your intestine and helps them to protect your bowel. These can be found in green bananas, onions, grains and cooked cold potatoes.
Me: Less than half of all Australian’s meet their fibre requirements. How much fibre do we actually need and what does this equate to food wise? How do we know if we are getting enough?
Dr Levy: The national guidelines tell us we need about 25-30g per day, although consuming more than the recommended daily intake can really help protect against disease. It may seem like a lot, but it’s as simple as eating a few more plant foods and sticking to this easy formula every day.
- 2 serves of whole fruit, preferably with skin
- 5 serves of vegetables
- 4-6 serves of grains, preferably high fibre or whole grain
- 1 serve of nuts and legumes
Me: What foods are highest in fibre that we could regularly eat to help us meet our fibre requirements?
Dr Levy: The latest national nutrition survey shows us that the largest contributors of fibre intake in the population are breads and breakfast cereals. People who eat these foods are more likely to meet their fibre requirements. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are also high in fibre so getting a mixture of all these foods every day is key. To give you an example, fruit, veggies and legumes, such as beans and lentils, contain about 3-4g fibre per serve, bran cereal can contain up to 13g per serve, two slices of wholemeal bread contains about 4g per serve and a bowl of oats contains 4g per serve.
Me: What are some simple food swaps we could make to increase our fibre intakes?
Dr Levy: As Michael Pollan always says “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. That’s all you need to do. Making your diet largely plant based is the key to getting more fibre. Using a substitutional approach is also a good tactic. Swap out refined grain foods for high fibre or whole grain ones. Choose a high fibre bran breakfast cereal, swap to wholemeal bread, keep the skin on fruit and eat it whole, eat enough vegetables and snack on nuts and seeds often.
Me: If someone does need to follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, how can they meet their fibre requirement?
Dr Levy: It’s not very easy to follow a gluten free diet, let alone trying to make sure you get enough fibre. The fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are the easy bit, but getting the fibre from grains is not easy. There are however, grains that are gluten free and eating more of those can really help. Grains and seeds like sorghum, quinoa, corn, millet, brown rice, buckwheat and psyllium are gluten free and can all be used to provide dietary fibre. Generally gluten free products made with refined white rice flour are not the healthiest choice. Try to stick with gluten free foods which incorporate the whole grains above to help you meet your fibre targets.
Me: If someone has chosen to exclude gluten from their diet (not for medical reasons), but now wants to include it again to increase their fibre intake, will they experience any issues & how should they go about this?
Dr Levy: They shouldn’t experience any issue with increasing their fibre intake with grains that contain gluten, provided there is no acute issue that made them choose to exclude it in the first place. Start with 1-2 serves a day and work up to 3-4. A simple bowl of fibre cereal or a wholemeal sandwich should do the trick, or alternatively a delicious barley soup. Don’t forget that with any increase in fibre you need to drink water too.
Editors Note: This is an unsponsored post.