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Fibre: It does more than just help you poo


Fibre is a bit like your childhood best friend: Not super new and exciting, but you know you’ll always have a deep love and respect for them.

Though fibre might not be as sexy and exciting as the latest superfood of the day, it has always been there to help the constipated among us get our relief. And by the way, it does so much more than just help us poo a little easier.

There’s new evidence—a study commissioned by the World Health Organization and published in the Journal The Lancet that looked at 40 years of research—that says fibre might be even more important than we thought, just like that trusty old and sometimes annoying friend you have known since you were three.

But first, what exactly is fibre anyway?

It’s the roughage, or the part of the food that can’t be totally broken down by our digestive enzymes. It contains two components: soluble fibre, meaning it dissolves in water (it’s what makes us feel full) and insoluble fibre, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water. 

Some well known health benefits of fibre include a decrease risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Further, fibre is known to help you lose weight as it makes you feel full and ultimately stops you from eating too much. 

Generally speaking, foods high in fibre tend to require more chewing, which helps maintain its structure in your gut to increase the feeling of feeling satiated, and also helps maintain proper lipid and blood glucose levels.

Back to the new research: 

The goal of the study was to develop new guidelines in terms of how much fibre we should be eating. The conclusion: We should be eating at least 25 to 29 grams a day. This was discovered from looking at 185 observational studies and 58 clinical studies. According to current data, most people eat closer to just 15 grams of fibre a day.

The study also looked at fibre's link to chronic diseases, as well as premature death because of these diseases, including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, as well as other obesity-related cancers.

The result: Those who eat lots of fibre are 15 to 30 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease compared to those who eat less. Further, a high-fibre diet was also found to be associated with a 16-24 percent lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.

In light of this, let’s consider some good sources of fiber in the food we eat:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruit
  3. Whole grains
  4. Pulses/legumes (peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas)

What does 29 grams of fibre look like?

Well, if you’re an avocado lover, you’re in luck! 

1 avocado has 11.8 grams of fibre. On the vegetable side, artichokes are king: 10 grams per medium artichoke.

Most fruits and vegetables are considerably lower than this, however. For example, apples, bananas and oranges all have around 3 to 4 grams of fibre and one cup of raspberries has 8 grams. As for vegetables, dark-colored vegetables tend to be higher in fibre, but so are carrots and beats. Swiss chard and collard greens have 4 grams per cup. 

Here’s a more comprehensive list of fiber in various vegetables for your reference:

Fibre it up, folks.