We all need fibre. Whether you’re a fan of low carb, intermittent fasting or another style of eating, this unique nutrient does wonders for our health. Fibre is also known as roughage. It’s the part of plant food that travels through our digestive tract without breaking down, absorbing water along the way. While that sounds good for keeping constipation at bay (and it is), fibre does a lot more than that. It also feeds the billions of tiny micro-organisms living and growing in our gut. These micro-organisms are collectively called the gut ‘microbiota’ or more simply known as ‘gut bugs’. These gut bugs also rely on certain types of fibre to maintain their health and function.
Not all types of fibres are equal and some have special properties that enhance the health of our microbiota. For example, gut bugs covert one type of fibre called inulin into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), which nourish colon cells and provide various other health benefits. Foods that contain inulin include; garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, tomato and dandelion greens. Other prebiotic foods that also provide this benefit include fennel, snow peas, cabbage, beetroot, cashews, soybeans and pomegranate.
Gut bugs also benefit from polyphenols, which includes compounds like flavonoids, resveratrol and lignans. There are plenty of foods rich in polyphenols, with some of the more popular ones being: tea, coffee (fresh grind), chocolate (dark), strawberries, raspberries, plums, olive oil (virgin cold-pressed), walnuts and almonds. Flaxseeds and chia seeds deserve a special mention as not only are they are a rich source of polyphenols, they also provide the essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseeds are best-taken ground into a meal as the whole seed can pass straight through undigested. Chia seeds soak up the liquid and form a jelly-like consistency, so have become a popular ingredient in many versions of the ‘chia seed pudding’.
There are many ways to include fibre and polyphenol-rich foods in your diet. Include salads and/or vegetables daily, snack on a few nuts and/or berries and add flax or chia seeds to a smoothie or dessert. If you are looking for inspiration visit the recipe section of this website – you’ll find plenty of tasty recipes from dark chocolate tortes to delicious savoury muffins.
One last tip. If you need to increase your fibre intake, do this gradually, perhaps adding new food each day. Too much fibre too quickly can get uncomfortable with possible bloating and gas.