Ever eaten what you thought was a pretty hefty and filling lunch only to feel the need to snack shortly after? These snacks do add up over time, contributing to a few extra kilos. If this sounds familiar, perhaps the lack of fibre-rich foods is to blame.
It is well-known that fibre is good for your health. From magazine headlines to the doctor’s office, the advice is the same: “Want to lose weight? Start eating fibre foods” and “Load up on fibre to lower your risk of heart disease.”
But how does fibre actually help you lose weight or keep heart attacks at bay? And how can you easily eat more fibre without overhauling your diet?
Dietary fibre consists of plant material that cannot be digested and absorbed by the body. This means that the fibre portion of foods merely passes through your digestive tract without contributing calories.
Foods that contain fibre – such as fruits and vegetables – take up more space in the stomach than foods that don’t, helping you feel full and satisfied.
In addition, these fibre-rich foods move slowly from your stomach to your small intestine, which also helps you feel satisfied for longer periods of time. Feeling full makes it easier to decrease your caloric intake and lose weight.
Different Types of Fibre, Different Benefits
Soluble fibre is water-soluble, which means it dissolves in water. Soluble fibre dissolves into a gel-like substance in your stomach. The gel helps bind fat (from a meatball you eat, for instance), keeping some of it from being absorbed and it also keeps sugar from being absorbed too quickly, thus helping to reduce cholesterol and maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Examples of soluble fibre foods include oat-meal, nuts and seeds, beans, apples, and berries.
Insolule fibre is not water-soluble and acts as a bulking agent to your stool. Found in foods such as carrots, green leafy vegetables, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, it absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract and is then excreted, helping to prevent constipation.
How Much Fibre Do You Need?
Instead of tediously calculating grammes of fibre before each meal, look for ways to incorporate fibre into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Below are some recommendations of small changes and simple swaps that will increase your fibre intake. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables have the benefits of both micronutrients and fibre, acting as a nutrient powerhouse.
– Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of drinking fruit or vegetable juices.
– Eat the skin when possible. For example, the skin of an apple contains insoluble fibre, while the flesh contains soluble fibre
– Choose whole wheat pasta, bread, and brown rice in lieu of their white counterparts
– Replace less nutritious snacks like chips and candy with raw vegetables, such as carrots and hummus, or celery and peanut butter
– Eat fibre-rich foods at each meal. Add beans to a salad or chili, or add a side salad at lunch
– When you are on the go or in a hurry, there will inevitably be times when you’ll need to grab a quick snack. Here are some tips to selecting healthy packaged snacks that are full of fibre
– Granola or cereal bars. Choose oat, bran or nut-based snack bar with at least five grammes of fibre
– Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit is a fibre-rich snack. Be sure to check the nutrition label to determine appropriate portion size since trail mix can be quite calorie dense
– Whole grain crackers or popcorn contain fibre and are easy to transport and store
– Whole grain or bran cereal. Add bran cereal to yoghurt for a boost of fibre
Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet with a multitude of health benefits. These simple tips help you add more dietary fibre to your diet and may even help add years to your life.