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Fibre has many benefits, slimming is only one of them. Find out everything you need to know

In the past, fibre used to be thought of simply as ballast. Today, it is an essential part of a healthy diet. What are its benefits and why is it important to our health? How much fibre should you consume in a day and which foods are a good source of fibre? Read on to find out more.

Do you eat a healthy diet, take good care of your body, exercise regularly and yet your weight doesn’t seem to be shifting as fast as you would like? There might be something missing from your intense regime. Could it actually be fibre? The fact is, eating two portions of vegetables and a piece of fruit a day is simply not enough. But first things first - what actually is fibre and why should we take it seriously when it comes to our healthy lifestyle? 

What is fibre and how does it affect our digestion?

Nutritionally, fibre is usually referred to as an indigestible carbohydrate. However, it is often shown separately on food labels. “Fibre has many benefits for the digestive system because it:

  • slows down the emptying of the stomach
  • makes you feel fuller, but thanks to its low calorific value (around 8kJ per 1g of fibre), it makes it easier for you to lose weight
  • binds to a lot of substances, such as fats, cholesterol and bile acids, and therefore reduces their absorption
  • slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, mainly sugars, reducing the glycaemic index of foods
  • binds to toxic substances that are harmful to health
  • promotes bowel movement and makes your stools softer
  • acts as a prebiotic, i.e. food that promotes good gut bacteria whose health benefits are far greater than previously thought,”

says Pavla Staňková, lecturer and researcher at the faculty of medicine.

Did you know that fibre-rich foods need to be chewed for longer? “This in itself makes fibre beneficial to us as it helps partially remove dental plaque and the increased saliva production helps neutralize acids,” adds Pavla Staňková.

Another important fact is that that fibre is commonly divided into two categories based on its ability to bind to water and its swelling capacity:

  • soluble (swells up, e.g. pectin, inulin, guar gum, plant gel-like substances)
  • insoluble (rough, e.g. cellulose, hemicellulose B, lignin)

Fibre is an essential part of a healthy diet

Fibre is absolutely vital for our digestion and, according to senior KetoDiet dietician Martina Dvořáková, fibre acts as the body’s protector. This is because it helps reduce the risk of developing a variety of lifestyle diseases, such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • colon cancer
  • digestive problems, including chronic constipation and colon inflammation
  • haemorrhoids
  • gall stones

Fibre also helps prevent dental caries and gum disease.

“Some studies even suggest a link between fibre and a lower risk of developing breast cancer,” according to Pavla Staňková, specialist in metabolic syndrome linked to obesity.

How much fibre should you have per day?

In order to fully benefit from dietary fibre, your daily fibre consumption should be 30g, according to nutritional guidelines. In children over 2 years of age, the recommended daily intake is calculated as the sum of their age plus 5, e.g. a 5-year old child should have 10g of fibre per day, whilst the daily fibre intake in a 10-year old should be 15g. In children under 2, the recommended daily amount is 5g. Although nutritional guidelines in other countries recommend higher amounts of fibre, it is recommended that wholemeal foods (such as bread) are introduced to a child’s varied and healthy diet slowly. 

Fibre should be introduced into your diet gradually. Why?

Remember that your varied diet should neither be too low or too high in fibre. Just as in children, it is important not to introduce fibre into your diet too quickly. If until now your diet has contained hardly any fibre, don’t go straight for 30g. “Fibre should be introduced into your diet gradually, so that your digestive system has a chance to get used to it. This will help you prevent uncomfortable bloating, although it is a natural reaction of a body that is not used to fibre and a sign of the cleansing process that is starting in your bowels. Don’t let this put you off. It’s worth persevering,” explains Martina Dvořáková who has been specialising in healthy eating for more than 15 years.

How to make your diet rich in fibre

It‘s no easy task to provide your body with a sufficient amount of fibre. “Most people eat only between 12 and 15g of fibre a day, which is only a half of the recommended intake,” warns nutrition expert Martina Dvořáková. How to create a diet that will contain the recommended 30g? The ideal solution is to combine the soluble and insoluble fibre. “The soluble fibre can be found in fruit and vegetable pulp or oats. As it swells up with water in the stomach, it leaves you feeling full. The insoluble fibre can be found in brown rice, pulses or wholemeal bread. Its main function is to mechanically clean the bowels which also contributes to the bowel movement and results in regular bowel opening,“ explains Martina. When checking food labels, look for high in fibre‘.  By law, such  products must contain at least 6g of fibre per 100g

Example

In order to add 30g of fibre to your diet in the right proportion, you should eat the following per day:

  • 1/2kg vegetables (e.g. 1 cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 pepper, 2 tomatoes) – on average,  vegetables contain 1 to 2 g of fibre per 100g
  • cca 300g fruit (1 apple and 1 banana) – 3g per 100g on average
  • 1 portion of wholemeal pasta or rice – 5 to 8g per 100g
  • 1 portion of oats – 7g per 100g
  • 2 portions of wholemeal bread – 5g per 100g

If you are also trying to watch your carbohydrate intake, it might be a bit difficult for you to eat all of this. In that case, go for KetoDiet protein meals that are rich in fibre or choose psyllium, a fibre-rich dietary supplement.

Psyllium is extracted from a plant called Plantago ovata and can be found in any healthy food shop. It is usually prepared as a drink by mixing with 2 teaspoons of water, milk, kefir or protein drink. You can also add it to yoghurt, protein pudding or protein mash. Leave for 10 minutes until it absorbs the water. Thanks to the water absorption – psyllium’s volume increases by up to 40 times – you will feel fuller. That’s why it’s ok to have it even when on a protein diet. However, drinking is not the only way to consume psyllium. Why not get creative and use it as a soup thickener or coat your steak in it?

Do you have any more questions about creating a fibre-rich slimming diet? Get in touch with our experienced dieticians who will be happy to assist you both online and over the phone.

 

Author: Nikola Nevečeřalová

Photos: KetoDiet, Depositphotos

 

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