What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about fibre? Is it staying regular? Well, if you don’t already know, there is so much more to this little food component than you ever imagined. Think about something that helps to keep you healthy, feeds the good bugs in your tummy, helps you feel fuller for longer, keeps you regular and helps blood sugar and cholesterol levels to stay steady.
There are different types of fibre, each with a different function and you need a mixture of these for good health. Soluble fibres are found in oats, barley, fruits, vegetables and legumes. These slow digestion, help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibres like that found in cereal bran, skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds help to keep you regular and promote digestive health. There are also fermentable fibres that act as prebiotics, the food for healthy bacteria in your colon, and they are found in a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Yet only half of South Africans achieve their fibre goals daily.
The recommended daily fibre requirement is around 25–30g per day for adults, and children need fibre too. For children over the age of 2 years, calculate their daily fibre requirements by using the “age + 5” formula. For example, a 6-year-old-child (+ 5) requires 11g of fibre per day. Although at first glance these recommendations would seem simple to achieve, the truth is that most of us need to increase our current fibre intake in order to reach these targets.
So, how do I increase my fibre intake?
Fibre is all about balance. Getting a balance of fibres from different sources is also the key to enjoying a host of benefits that can lead to overall well-being.
Here are some ways how:
• Eat 4–6 servings of whole-grain of high-fibre grains and cereals per day
• Eat 2 servings of fruit with the skin on per day
• Eat 5 servings of vegetables per day
• Eat at least 1 serving of nuts, seeds or legumes per day Eat these every day, together with lean protein, healthy fats and good quality dairy food and you will be singing, because fibre is something you could always have more of.
If your fibre intake is currently low, increase your fibre intake gradually to avoid symptoms such as bloating and gas and allow your digestive system to adjust to the higher intake. Remember to drink plenty of fluid such as water or decaffeinated beverage options like Rooibos or herbal teas, to allow the fibre to do its job properly. As always, aim for 8–10 cups of fluid per day, to be consumed at regular intervals.