What’s the Big Fuss About Fibre? – Part 1

If you are going to make one change to your diet this year, can I encourage you to increase the amount of fibre you eat? Fibre has numerous benefits beyond just keeping us ‘regular’.

Fibre also helps to maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, bowel disorders and feeds the good bacteria in our guts.

So how does fibre help with:

  • Weight: fibre makes us feel fuller for longer, so we are less likely to overeat. Foods that are high in fibre require more chewing; this gives our stomach time to register when we are full. Eating quickly doesn’t allow the stomach adequate time to tell the brain that we are no longer hungry, and we can end up eating more than we really need. Foods that are high in fibre tend to have fewer kilojoules.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: fibre helps to slow the rates at which sugar enters the bloodstream and so prevents blood sugar levels from spiking. High levels of sugar in the bloodstream can, over time, damage the blood vessels. It acts a bit like a slow-release fertiliser, allowing the body to process sugar in smaller amounts. This means that our pancreas can keep up with the work of getting the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells, reducing the chance of damage to blood vessels.
  • Heart disease: Fibre lowers blood cholesterol levels by reducing its absorption from the intestines.
  • Bowel disorders: prevents constipation, diverticular disease and haemorrhoids.
  • Maintains a healthy gut microbiome: most plant fibres are prebiotics, in other words, it is the food that the good bacteria in our large intestines need to stay alive and healthy.

Foods that are high in fibre also contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals or phytonutrients, as they are sometimes called, which are a large group of compounds that includes antioxidants, flavonoids, anthocyanidins and many others.

Studies show that diets high in phytochemicals may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

There are so many benefits to consuming fibre-rich foods. Next month we will continue with this topic and look at different types of fibre, good sources of fibre and recommended daily intakes.

If you would like help with creating new routines and learning how to prioritise your health, e-mail me at paula@drkathleen.co.nz for an appointment or ring the office: (09) 973-0070.

Paula Southworth
Registered Nutritionist (NZ) & Health Coach
(BSc Nutrition and Sports Science)
Member of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand