Why you probably need more fibre

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet – but most Australians don’t get enough.

Around four in five Australians don’t include enough fibre in their daily diet, says a recent report – increasing the risk of health problems including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The report found that just one more daily serve of fibre could help around 64,000 people avoid cardiovascular disease and 126,000 Aussies avoid type 2 diabetes each year.

Lack of fibre also increases the likelihood of health issues ranging from constipation and diverticular disease to haemorrhoids and bowel cancer.

Some studies also find a diet with plenty of fibre can help with weight control because fibre-rich foods are usually filling but low in kilojoules.

So essentially, you feel full while eating less.

What is fibre?

Fibre is found in the indigestible parts of mostly plant-based foods. There are three main types:

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre absorbs water and turns to gel in the intestines.

This slows down how quickly food is digested, making us feel fuller for longer.

It helps lower cholesterol by reducing how much “bad” cholesterol is absorbed from what we eat, and it can stabilise blood glucose levels – important for people with diabetes.

Soluble fibre can also help ease constipation and is found in oats, flaxseed, nuts, lentils and some fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fibre

This fibre, found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables and wholegrains, adds bulk to bowel motions, easing the risk of constipation and haemorrhoids.

Good sources of insoluble fibre include whole grain cereals, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and chickpeas.

Resistant starch

This type of starch ferments and feeds good bacteria in the bowels to keep them healthy and working efficiently.

Resistant starch is found in lentils, beans, al dente pasta, cooked and cooled potatoes, whole grains and firm bananas.

How to get more fibre in your diet

Healthy eating guidelines recommend adult Australians eat 25g to 30g of fibre each day.

You can get enough daily fibre by eating:

  • At least four serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods, such as wholegrain pasta, mixed grain bread, brown rice, quinoa.
  • At least two serves of fruit
  • Five serves of vegetables
  • Look for packaged food with at least 4g of fibre per serve

If your diet is still lacking fibre, you may consider fibre supplements – talk to your health professional.

When you increase the amount of fibre in your diet, drink plenty of water to help the fibre move along the digestive system.

Written by Sarah Marinos