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By Jaimee Damon | Image credit: @bensasso
Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. “Nutritionally speaking, fibre is an essential macronutrient, like water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat,” Natasha says.
To feel nourished, it’s recommended that women and men consume 25 grams and 30 grams of fibre per day respectively, and pregnant or lactating women at least 28 grams per day.
A healthy fibre intake improves our digestive and cardiometabolic health (heart, blood and blood vessels), reduces the risk of chronic disease, and increases our longevity – to lead a long, happy, healthy life!
The clue is in your poo – this is not a time to be shy about doing number twos. Paying attention to our bowel movements is key to understanding if we’re not getting enough fibre.
Natasha says “infrequent or irregular bowel movements, stools that are difficult or uncomfortable to pass, and feelings of incomplete laxation (when you don’t feel like you’re ‘finished’) after passing stools” are all common signs and symptoms that you’re lacking fibre in your diet.
Feeling hungry soon after eating is another tell-tale sign, and chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and weight gain, can also be associated with chronic fibre deficiency.
An easy to use and recommended tool by health practitioners is The Bristol Stool Chart. This can give you a guide or preliminary indication of bowel health and fibre intake, and help you understand if you’re having ‘normal’ bowel movements. See where your stools sit on the scale – the closer to the middle, the better, says Natasha. If you’re at either end of the scale, it might be time to take a closer look at your gut and diet.
“Dietary fibre is found in plant-derived foods, and there are different types – soluble, insoluble, and resistant starch, so it is important to get a balance by eating a variety of different plants,” says Natasha.
Some suggestions for foods with high amounts of fibre are:
When cooking, go for veggie loaded stir fries, rainbow salads, soups with vegetables and legumes, and muesli with nuts and fruits to nourish your body.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we enjoy a variety of the different wholefoods, with five (75 g) servings of vegetables and/or legumes, two servings of fruit, and three or more servings (1/2 cup) of wholegrains each day.
“If you do start making dietary changes to increase your fibre intake, it is important to also increase your water intake to help your gut adjust to the changes,” says Natasha.
If you’re feeling limited with food choices, you’re a picky eater, or simply struggling to get enough, a fibre supplement can be helpful. When choosing a supplement to support your gut, Natasha says to be mindful and consider one that is plant-derived, and free from artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives.
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