The 'F' word. What you need to know.

The 'F' word. What you need to know.

The ‘F’ Word.

Yep you guessed it, Fibre. There is SO much talk about this word but do you really understand the ‘ins and outs’ of Fibre and why is it so important to include in our diet, or on a very basic level and more importantly, What is Fibre?

I’m glad you asked.

“Dietary Fibre is that fraction of the edible parts of plants or analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. Dietary fibre includes polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, lignins and other associated plant substances that promote beneficial physiological effects….” {ANZFA, 2000} 

The definition goes on but let’s keep it short and sweet.  Fibre has some distinctive features: it comes from plants and its chemical composition is largely from carbohydrates. The physiological effects of fibre can be systemic {the lowering of blood glucose and cholesterol} or local {in the gut} where fibre has the ability to serve as a substrate for the growth of our gut bacteria.

It gets more interesting. Fibre can also be broken down into two types: Soluble and Insoluble. Whilst they’re commonly found together in the same foods, they play different roles in supporting health.

Insoluble Fibre

Basically it doesn’t dissolve in water and it can’t be broken down by the gut and absorbed into the blood stream. Insoluble fibre is the tough stuff that adds bulk to your digestive waste {poop} and is found in  nuts, seeds, whole grains and also stalks and skins of fruits and veggies. Think ‘roughage’. It helps keep you regular and prevents constipation.

gut health

Soluble Fibre

Soluble fibre is completely the opposite. It dissolves in water to form a ‘gel-like’ substance in the gut during digestion. Think of it like ‘lube’ for the small intestine, whilst insoluble fibre is creating bulk, soluble fibre is softening that bulk to help it slide through the GI tract more easily. It also has the ability to regulate our insulin response by binding to sugar,  this makes us feel full for longer.  It also binds to cholesterol and makes it behave properly {that’s good for our cardiovascular system}. Last but not least it  helps boost the population of our gut bacteria. Soluble fibre is found in fruits, grains, seeds, legumes and vegetables.

You need both types

As you can see, soluble and insoluble fibre are as equally important as each other in promoting healthy gut function and bowel habits. It is recommended that men and women get between 25g and 40g of fibre per day and this is pretty easy to do if you’re eating a balanced diet rich in whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, nut, seeds and legumes.  

Nutritionists Note: If you’re struggling with the digestion of certain types of fibres and carbohydrates {i.e you’re getting bloated / gassy/ loose stools} perhaps this is a sign that something is amiss with your gut. Whilst gut health needs to be individualized some simple things that can help get your gut in tip-top shape are:

  • Ensure you are eating balanced nutritious meals that contain protein, good fats, carbohydrates and a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Don’t cut Carbs! AS you can see most of our fibre some from carbohydrates so our gut and gut health really depends on them
  • Include fermented foods in your diet daily
  • Choose quality protein - this can be plant based {hemp, nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa }, seafood, free range eggs or from grass fed, pasture raised  animals

You can read more about this on the JCN Website

By Carissa Anne.

Nutritionist {BHSc} – The JCN Clinic

Carissa is an accredited and practicing nutritionist at the JCN Clinic in Brisbane. The JCN Clinic is renowned for their focus on Digestive Health and an individualised, balanced approach to eating and nutrition.  Carissa is available for Nutritional Consultations in person or via Skype or phone. To find out more contact the Clinic via email  or you book online here

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