GUT IN­STINCTS the low­down on fi­bre

WE ALL KNOW FI­BRE IS IM­POR­TANT, BUT WHY DO WE NEED IT AND HOW DO WE MAKE SURE WE’RE GET­TING ENOUGH?

Weight Watchers Magazine (Australia) - - Contents -

Want to lose weight and re­duce your risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease? Fi­bre, the in­di­gestible parts of plant foods that keep our di­ges­tive sys­tems healthy, can make a big dif­fer­ence. “We used to think fi­bre helped with weight loss just be­cause you feel fuller for longer and also be­cause as fi­brous foods take longer to chew, you eat more slowly and reg­is­ter that you’re get­ting full. But the hid­den rea­son that fi­bre is so good for your health and for weight loss is be­cause it changes your gut flora for the bet­ter,” says med­i­cal doc­tor Dr He­lena Popovic. “Fi­bre is a pre­bi­otic. It pro­vides nu­tri­ents for the growth of healthy bac­te­ria in your colon. And the health­ier your bac­te­ria, the more fa­vor­able en­zymes they pro­duce, so the bet­ter your bio­chem­istry and di­ges­tive sys­tem will be.” In ad­di­tion to the gut health ben­e­fits, a study pub­lished in the jour­nal Nu­tri­tion Re­views showed that fi­bre sup­ple­men­ta­tion sig­nif­i­cantly en­hanced weight loss, while high in­takes of di­etary fi­bre re­duced the risk of de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes, coro­nary heart dis­ease and stroke. >

ARE YOU GET­TING ENOUGH?

Women need 25g of fi­bre a day and men need 30g – but only about six out of 10 of us meet this tar­get. This is mainly be­cause less than a third of us eat enough fi­bre-rich grains or fruit and only four per cent eat the rec­om­mended serves of veg­eta­bles and legumes a day, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Statis­tics Aus­tralian Health Sur­vey.

One way to know you’re not get­ting enough fi­bre is by what comes out of you (or strug­gles to come out of you). “Es­sen­tially, fi­bre is re­ally im­por­tant for keep­ing our bowels reg­u­lar. The first symp­tom you’ll no­tice if you aren’t get­ting enough fi­bre is con­sti­pa­tion. An­other is if your stools are quite pel­let-like. If it’s hard to pass and you’re strain­ing, that’s a sign of con­sti­pa­tion as well,” says Rob­bie Clark, an ac­cred­ited prac­tis­ing di­eti­tian and co-founder of The Health Clinic.

“Other symp­toms are cramp­ing, pain or even bloat­ing, which may in­di­cate there’s a back­log. This back­log causes the pain as a lot of tox­ins are build­ing up, lead­ing to gas pres­sure,” Clark says.

If you have a low-fi­bre diet, you can also worsen con­sti­pa­tion-pre­dom­i­nant ir­ri­ta­ble bowel

Less than a third of Aus­tralians eat enough fi­brerich grains or fruit .

syn­drome. “It might be con­sti­pa­tion one week, then di­ar­rhoea the next. Th­ese peo­ple need as­sis­tance in bal­anc­ing their good gut flora and the fi­bre in their diet,” Clark says.

Let’s see how we can turn our fi­bre num­bers around.

DO’S AND DON’TS TO IN­CREASE YOUR FI­BRE IN­TAKE

DON’T OVER­LOAD YOUR BODY WITH FI­BRE IN ONE HIT

“If you’re in­cor­po­rat­ing more fi­bre into your diet it’s im­por­tant to do it grad­u­ally. A lot of peo­ple go from one ex­treme to an­other and that can cause gas­troin­testi­nal up­set, a lot of gas and feel­ings of dis­com­fort,” Clark warns.

Dr Popovic ad­vises: “Do it slowly by just chang­ing your break­fast for a cou­ple of weeks at first. Then, af­ter a few weeks, start to add more leafy green veg­eta­bles into your diet. They’re easy to add be­cause they don’t bulk up your food too much, mean­ing you’re less likely to feel bloated.”

DO HAVE WHOLE GRAINS FIRST THING IN THE MORN­ING

“Break­fast is gen­er­ally the time of day where we in­cor­po­rate the ma­jor­ity of whole grains into our diet, from bread or min­i­mally pro­cessed ce­re­als,” Clark says. If you don’t usu­ally have whole grains at break­fast, Clark sug­gests try­ing them ev­ery other day.

DON’T JUICE YOUR FRUIT AND VEG

“Juicing in­hibits the amount of fi­bre you’re con­sum­ing be­cause you’re not get­ting the pectin, the fi­bre of the skin on veg­eta­bles and fruit,” Clark says. “Eat whole fruit and veg­eta­bles in­stead.”

DO SPRIN­KLE GROUND SEEDS AND NUTS ON YOUR MEALS

“Things like LSA, which is a lin­seed, sun­flower seed and al­mond mix, or ground psyl­lium husk, are very ver­sa­tile,” Clark says. “You can add them to yo­ghurt and mix with soups or casseroles – any­thing that’s a semi-liq­uid. It’s a fan­tas­tic way to in­crease the fi­bre and protein con­tent of your meals. Mak­ing your own trail mix with nuts and seeds is a great snack, too.”

DON’T EAT TOO MUCH HIGHLY PRO­CESSED FOOD

“Highly pro­cessed foods will be de­pleted in fi­bre con­tent,” Clark says.

DO BULK UP YOUR RECIPES WITH LEGUMES

“Add lentils, chick­peas or beans to bolog­naise sauce, casseroles and soups. This will bulk up the food and in­crease the fi­bre con­tent,” Clark says. “As you in­crease fi­bre in­take you need to in­crease wa­ter in­take, too. Both sol­u­ble and in­sol­u­ble fi­bre need wa­ter to help flush them through your sys­tem,” Dr Popovic says. Spread your wa­ter in­take out across the day, rather than sav­ing it all for meal­times, as it can take more than 24 hours for fi­bre to make its way through your gut. #

DO DRINK MORE WA­TER

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