Are you eating the right kind of Fibre?
by Jessica Mayland
Six out of ten Australians don’t eat enough fibre, and even more don’t get the right combination of fibres.
Eating dietary fibre - food components (mostly derived from plants) that resist human digestive enzymes - is associated with improved digestive health. High fibre intakes have also been linked to reduced risk of several serious chronic diseases, including bowel cancer.
In Australia, we have a fibre paradox: even though our average fibre consumption has increased over the last 20 years and is much higher than in the United States and the United Kingdom, our bowel cancer rates haven’t dropped.
This is probably because we’re eating a lot of insoluble fibre (also known as roughage) rather than a combination of fibres that includes fermentable fibres, which are important for gut health.
The different types of fibre
Eating a combination of different fibres addresses different health needs. The NHMRC recommends adults eat between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fibre each day.
For convenience, dietary fibre can be broadly divided into types:
• Insoluble fibres or roughage promote regular bowel movements. Sources of insoluble fibre include wheat bran and high-fibre cereals, brown rice, and wholemeal breads.
• Soluble fibres slow digestion, lower plasma cholesterol levels, and even out glucose uptake to the blood. Sources of soluble fibre include oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables.
• Resistant starches contribute to health by feeding good bacteria in the large bowel, which improves its function and reduces risk of disease. Sources of resistant starch include legumes (lentils and beans), cold cooked potatoes or pasta, firm bananas, and whole grains.
Include a variety of fibres in your diet
Getting enough fibre is important, but getting a combination of fibre is imperative for good digestive health.
Most people know that eating insoluble fibre improves regular bowel movements, but the benefits of soluble fibre in slowing glucose release and resistant starch in promoting beneficial bacteria are less well known. Including a variety of fibres in your diet will ensure you get the health benefits of all of them.