Fibre is one of the most essential nutrients in our diet. It has many health benefits, including decrease level of bad cholesterol (LDL), control blood sugar levels and may even prevent some cancers. Therefore, it’s vital to hit its recommended daily intake. See how to do that.

I bet you have heard that common phrase ‘you should eat more fibre’ or ‘you need to eat a lot of veggies to get your portion of fibre in’ before. Eventually, this article has been written to provide you with some good answers and reasons why you really should eat more of dietary fibre and how will you benefit from it. 

Firstly, let me explain what digestive fibre is. It is a plant-based carbohydrate, occurring in the cell walls of plants. There are two kinds of fibre, soluble and insoluble ones. The first one – soluble fibre – sourced in oats, oat bran, barley, pulses, beans and lentils.

How does the fibre digest? What are the benefits of this?

When it enters the stomach, dietary fibre dissolves in liquids (like water, juice or coffee, to name a few) to form a gel. Therefore, it prolongs stomach emptying time. In consequence, it promotes satiety and helps to control blood sugar levels.

Diet​ar​y fibre benefits and recommendation

The second kind of dietary fibre – the insoluble fibre – comes from fruits and vegetables (your 5 a day!). Also, you can find it in whole products such as bread, rice, bran, nuts and seeds. It doesn’t dissolve in liquids and it passes through the stomach relatively intact. As a result of this, it speeds up and promotes digestion, improves it and helps to keep healthy bowel movements. On top of this, it adds volume to your diet, which is a huge psychological benefit when dieting. 

According to Anita Bean (Food for Fitness, 2014, p. 16), an average person in the UK consumes anything between 13–14g of fibre per day. On the other hand, the British Nutrition Foundation estimates the amount of fibre consumed per day is up to 17.2g of fibre for women and up to 20.1g for men. However, the British Nutrition Foundation recommends consuming 30g of fibre a day for an average adult.

To give you an idea of what 30g of dietary fibre looks like have a look at the picture below.

What 30g of fibre look like - diet​ar​y fibre benefits and recommendation
What 30g of fibre look like

It doesn’t seem too hard to get that amount of fibre in once it’s visualised like that, does it? Yet, we’re still not even close to reach our recommended amount of 30g per day. So where is the problem?

The problem is, as per usual, in our diets and eating habits. 😉 But before we get to this, let’s have a look at some benefits that fibre provides us with and why should you bother it anyway. 

The main benefits of a fibre-rich diet for our health.

These are benefits of a fibre-rich diet for our health:

Aids health of your bowel aka poo matters 😉

A diet rich in dietary fibre supports your digestion, allowing food to pass through the digestive passage easily preventing constipation. It also may lower the risks of developing haemorrhoids (which increases when we suffer from frequent constipation) and diverticular disease (small pouches in the walls of your colon) and bowel cancer just to name a few.

Decreases levels of cholesterol

Soluble fibre – to be found in lentils, oats, beans but also in fruit and vegetables (your 5 a day!) – may help lower down your LDL or so-called ‘bad cholesterol’. LDL makes up most of your body’s cholesterol, its high levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. It may have other benefits to your cardiovascular. In particular, reducing blood pressure, ‘but the evidence to support an association with hypertension (HBP, High Blood Pressure) is insufficient to warrant any recommendations’ (Source) and inflammation.

Diet​ar​y fibre benefits and recommendation

Control blood sugar levels

Soluble fibre plays a significant role in control blood sugar level. It prolongs stomach emptying. This, in consequence, prevents a rapid blood sugar rise. It may also prevent this infamous early afternoon slump, after having a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Subsequently, in the long term, it helps to prevent the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Helps with weight management

This is a massive and vital point which I could probably write a separate article about. However, I’ll keep it short here. In a nutshell, the digestive fibre promotes satiety. At the same time, loads of food rich in fibre is very low in calories, like vegetables, fruit,  pasta, rice, oats, beans, lentils, pulses. On top of that, it slows down digestion, which results in feeling full for longer. It helps you tamper your hunger and appetite for more foods. Furthermore, a diet rich in those foods provides you with a large volume of foods, which has a substantial psychological aspect of successful weight management.

Diet​ar​y fibre benefits and recommendation

Can help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases

According to Anita Bean (Food for Fitness, 2014, p. 16), in countries with naturally rich in dietary fibre nutrition the risk of diseases like bowel cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease are much lower than in countries consume less fibre. However, scientists aren’t clear whether these benefits occur due to the high fibre level intake or other nutrients found naturally in fibre-rich foods.

What studies say about fibre intake level.

There has been conducted a study by European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). A study of 519,978 individuals, recruited from ten different European countries, to examine this theory. The study showed that in population with low average fibre intake doubling the amount of consumed fibre could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 40 per cent (Source: Anita Bean (Food for Fitness, 2014, p. 16).

There has been conducted a number of meta-analysis, i.e. examination of data from a number of independent studies of the same subject, to determine overall trends, to examine the relationship between people’s diet and the risks and cancers occurrence. A meta-analysis to examine the association between dietary fibre intake and the risk of ovarian cancer conducted in 2018 shows that there is a high chance to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer when consuming a rich in fibre diet in comparison to a diet low in fibre (Source).

How to reach your daily intake of fibre?

How to simply check how much of fibre you consume and how much you need to add it to your diet to reach this goal? I’d recommend you to carry out a food diary for at least two days and write down how much of what foods you have had. You can check the amount of fibre on the food label. If you’re more into the tech gadgets, download a food tracking app such as MyFitness Pal, LifeSum or any other. Keep track of your food for two days and then check how much fibre you consume per day. Now, look at the picture below where we I show you what simple swaps in your diet you can make to easily up your fibre intake.

Yet if you feel like you need some more in-depth help about your nutrition and food, then feel free to reach me out here. We’ll see if there’s something I can help you with.

The bottom line.

As you can see, the appropriate intake of fibre is essential and may give you some both immediate and long-term health and wellbeing benefits. It doesn’t require much effort to make it happen. Therefore, it’s worth to take it into consideration. Eventually, an extra amount of brown toast slices or apples and broccoli a day is well worth the long-term benefits.