I’m always banging on about fibre!
My clients will tell you, it’s one aspect of their diet I am always looking to improve.
But what is it and what has it got to do with weight loss?
In this blog I want to outline just how important getting enough fibre in your diet is to weight loss and to your general health, and how you can boost your intake of it easily.
Be warned – I’m going to be using words like ‘bowel’ and ‘stool’ – but keep reading, this is important stuff! 😄
We should probably start with the question ‘what is dietary fibre?’
Basically, fibre is a carbohydrate that cannot be fully digested in the gut. It’s what you probably heard your parents call roughage!
It’s a complex group of compounds that are found in plant-based foods such as vegetable and fruits, beans and pulses and wholegrains.
There are 2 types of dietary fibre –
Firstly – ‘Insoluble fibre’ – which acts as a bulking agent (important for regular healthy trips to the toilet 💩). It also attracts water into your stool, so it’s really important for bowel health.
And secondly ‘Soluble fibre’- this mixes with water to form a viscous, gel-like substance and slows down how fast the stomach releases digested food into the gut, prolonging the feeling of fullness (I’ll come back to this later).
It can help control blood glucose (sugar) levels and may help with blood cholesterol levels
Its soluble fibre that can play the biggest role in weight management.
In recent years there has been a lot of research into the importance of gut health and the influence of it on all aspects of our health and wellbeing. Soluble fibre plays a starring role in the maintenance of the incredible microbiome in our gut – it’s importance is something we ignore at our peril!
Fibre directly affects our gut health by influencing the composition of the bacteria in our gut. Good gut bacteria affect so many aspects of our health which are directly linked to our;
* Energy levels
* Sleep patterns
…and all these things have a big impact on how we manage our weight.
So how do we get our hands on this all important fibre?
Plants generally contain both types of fibre but in varying amounts, but here’s a list of some of the best food sources of each type, so you can add them to your next shopping list!
|Soluble Fibre||Insoluble Fibre|
|Oats||Wholewheat & Wheat bran|
|Beans (all types inc baked!)||Beans|
|Pears, Apples, Avocado||Cauliflower|
|Citrus fruits||Green beans|
|Seeds (ie flax and sunflower)||Berries|
|Vegetables, especially Brussel sprouts, Broccoli, Carrots and Asparagus||Potatoes and Sweet potatoes (keep the skin on – better to bake or steam them)|
Are you eating your 5 a day?
The whole ‘5 a day’ thing (ie 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day) has been bandied around for the last 20 years.
But 5 portions a day is actually a minimum – and that can be broken down to 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables.
As a caveat – when it comes to weight loss I suggest to my clients that 3 portions of fruit is a maximum – but there is no limit on vegetables, the more the better!
Variety is key
We hear about so-called ‘superfoods’ – broccoli, kale, blueberries – but ALL fruit and vegetables are important, they all contain differing amounts of soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins and minerals – so keep mixing it up!
It’s a win-win situation!
In order to get the right amount of fibre in your diet you have to include fruit and vegetables, pulses and wholegrains – the more of this you eat the less room you have for rubbish!
The ‘rubbish’ (which is always Ultra Processed Foods) are stripped of all nutrients, including most of the fibre.
And the beauty of eating enough of the good stuff, is that it has a knock-on effect to the amount of unhealthy foods you eat (especially the ultra-processed variety) and the less of the unhealthy foods you eat, the less you crave it – another big win for weight loss!
To summarise the weight loss wins…
1) Eating enough fibre keeps us fuller for longer so we eat less/consume less calories.
2) Increasing fibre in your diet boosts the gut microbiome which influences important aspects of our well-being, which all play an important role in obtaining and sustaining a healthy body weight.
For example, eating more fibre (your fruit, vegetables and pulses) can improve your quality of sleep which greatly impacts mood and energy levels which in turn affects our food choices day to day.
So now I’ve explained all that, it may shock you to know that in the UK we only eat about 50% of the recommended daily amount of fibre!
But what is the recommended daily amount and what on earth does that look like on our plates?
We should all be eating around 30g of fibre a day.
Here’s an example of a 30g fibre day
|Food and quantity||Grams of Fibre|
|10g Flax seed||2.3g|
|10g Chia seeds||3.4g|
|Med Jacket potato||4.7g|
|80g Carrot (raw)||3.1g|
|Wholemeal Bread, slice (medium)||2.2g|
|85g Broccoli steamed||3.2g|
|1 Pear (conference, medium)||4.2g|
|20g Mixed Nuts (unsalted)||1.9g|
|🎉 = 30.3g Fibre! 🎉|
To to answer my original question – Is fibre important to weight loss?
Yes, it plays a fundamental role! And there is some evidence that the effects of weight loss due to fibre specifically target belly fat. (You can read my blog on how to get rid of belly fat here)
But I want to leave you with one final bit of information as food for thought…
Every year 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer (and the rate is higher in men than in women) but 28% of these cases are caused by eating too little fibre.
11% of bowel cancer cases are in people who are living with excess weight and obesity.
I hope this has encouraged you to look at the levels of fibre in your diet
WARNING ⚠️ before you dive head long into a pile of cauliflower, beans and pears….if you increase your fibre intake suddenly there can be side effects such as painful wind, bloating and stomach cramps. Increasing your fibre intake is something you need to do gradually.
But if you do get any discomfort, it’s a telling sign that your body isn’t used to fibre and it’s something you should continue to work on…for your general health as well as your weight.
And it’s very important to drink lots of water when increasing fibre too (you don’t want it to get stuck! 😱😄)
So here’s to healthy bowels, great stools and weight loss! 😄
For anyone who’d like some help with weight loss – I’m here!
Let’s have a chat – book here for a virtual cuppa. I’ll put the kettle on!