Fibre is the part of plant foods that we can’t digest (1). Whilst other things we eat are broken down and absorbed, fibre travels the whole way through our digestive tract, and stays relatively intact. There are two main forms of fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre soaks up water and forms a gel in our gut – this means we digest and absorb food more slowly. As a result, eating soluble fibre can help to stabilise our appetites, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels (2). Soluble fibre also helps to feed the good bacteria in our large intestine, meaning that our gut microbiome can flourish. On the other hand, insoluble fibre adds bulk. Not only does this bulk help us to feel fuller for longer, but it helps to ‘push’ food through our digestive tract and therefore keeps us regular (2).
Because of the role fibre has in digestion and gut health and cholesterol and blood sugar stabilising, eating fibre can work to protect us from diseases such as obesity, colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease (3, 4).
How can we increase our fibre intake? Whole food plant based diets are typically packed full of fibre. That’s because sources of soluble fibre include oats, legumes and fruits and vegetables, whilst insoluble fibre is found in wheat bran, nuts, seeds and the skins of fruits and vegetables – all of which are whole foods and plants.
To really up the fibre in your diet:
• When choosing bread, pasta, rice and other grain based foods choose whole grain options wherever possible
• Aim for at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
• When adding protein to your meal, consider legumes, nuts and seeds. They pack a fantastic fibre punch!