It’s essential for a healthy digestive system – but for so much more besides. Here are 8 good reasons to fill up on fibre
1. It balances good and bad gut bacteria
Most of us have heard of probiotics, but not so many realise that the fibre in our diet can influence the type and amount of probiotic bacteria present in our gut. This is because some fibres are prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria such as bifidobacteria. Wheat, garlic, onions, artichokes and chicory all have a prebiotic effect.
2. It helps keep your colon healthy
When certain fibres are fermented in the large intestine they produce short-chain fatty acids. These help to keep the lining of the colon healthy by fuelling its cells and promoting blood flow.
3. It’s a natural detoxer
Insoluble fibre (found in wholemeal flour, pasta and bread, wholegrain cereals, bran, brown rice and some fruit and veg) remains intact during digestion and passes into the large colon. There it absorbs toxins and adds bulk to stools. Bulky stools mean waste products pass through the body more easily, helping to prevent constipation and diverticular disease. It’s a detox – the natural way!
4. It helps to protect you against bowel cancer…
‘The evidence from Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) confirms that plenty of fibre in our diet helps to protect against bowel cancers, including colon and rectal,’ says dietician Juliette Kellow.
5. …As well as type 2 diabetes
‘Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the UK, but the SACN report found that higher intakes of dietary fibre are linked to a reduced risk of this condition,’ says Juliette.
6. It’s good for your heart
‘Most of us immediately think of our digestive system when it comes to fibre, but there’s lots of evidence that a good fibre intake is beneficial for our heart, too,’ says Juliette. Evidence from the SACN reveals that a diet rich in dietary fibre is linked with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. Wholegrains and higher intakes of fibre from cereals seem to have the greatest effect. Added to this, oat fibre helps to control blood cholesterol levels (good news as high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease).
7. It may help to lower blood pressure
The SACN report found higher intakes of beta-glucan – found in oats – may help to lower blood pressure (as well as cholesterol). Plus, there’s evidence that good amounts of wholegrains help to protect against hypertension.
8. It helps you pack in more nutrients
‘Many fibre-rich foods are low in fat and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, so they’re a key part of a healthy diet,’ says Juliette.