We’ve all heard it before, but how much do we really understand it? Fibre is vital for good health for two main reasons: it helps us feel full, meaning we are less likely to overeat, and maybe more importantly, fibre helps us absorb all the goodness from foods and drinks.
Very simply put, our gut is one long tunnel, and everything we eat needs to move smoothly through – ideally not too fast, not too slow. All along this great tunnel, different nutrients are absorbed through the gut wall, into our bloodstream, then head off to where they are needed most to do their special jobs keeping us healthy.
So every single essential nutrient can be released from foods and pass through the gut wall our bodies need time, and water (and for some nutrients the help of enzymes and friendly bacteria).
This is where fibre comes in. The combination of both fibre, and water, in our foods and drinks helps everything move through at a reasonable pace. Not enough fibre and everything can stall too long, while water continues to be absorbed. It can lead to constipation, which isn’t much fun! Too much fibre and everything can move too fast, not allowing enough time for full absorption of all the nutrients.
Fibre in fruits is especially useful. Most fruit fibre is what is known as water-soluble fibre. This means the fibres are bound up in water, which makes for a softer smoother passage through the gut. Insoluble fibre is what we often think of as ‘roughage’ (i.e. grains and husks), also important to help keep the walls of the gut clean and act as food for our friendly bacteria to feed on.
Most Kiwis are falling short of their fibre needs, but it can be easy to get enough in your day with some simple changes:
- eat less processed foods
- switch to wholegrain breads and cereals
- snack on fruits, nuts, seeds and wholegrain crackers
- use fruits, bran, and wholemeal flour in baking
- enjoy plenty of fruits and veggies (keep frozen berries handy to add to breakfast cereals, smoothies, baking and desserts).
Berries are a fantastic way to get plenty of fibre. Like most fruits they give us soluble fibres (in the fleshy parts) but they have the added bonus of insoluble fibres too in the tiny pips and seeds. They may be small, but berries are a powerhouse of fibre and other goodness. Fill your tum!