The Importance of Fibre for Weight Loss

The Importance of Fibre for Weight Loss

When you think of staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight, what do you think of?

Chances are, the word fibre doesn’t spring to mind.

You’re more likely to think of low carbs, unsaturated fat, protein, cardio exercise, strength training, etc.

But focusing on the ‘f’ word is one of the best things you can do to keep your weight down and your fitness levels high.

This article will dive into the nutritional science behind fibre and how it can form a crucial part of your diet.

What is Fibre?

In a nutshell (which is actually a good place to find fibre, especially pistachios), fibre or roughage is the part of plant-based carbohydrates that cannot be entirely broken down in the gut.

Basically, the digestive enzymes in the small intestine can’t cope with dietary fibre and fail to break it all down, which dramatically changes the way other nutrients are absorbed. This separates it from other carbohydrates such as starch and sugars that are easily absorbed and have little to no effect on other nutrients.

There are two main types of fibre:

Soluble Fibre

Soluble fibre is easily dissolved in water, which means it soaks up fluid in the gut like a sponge, turning to a gelatinous substance, most of which is fermented into gases in the colon. It absorbs liquids such as surplus bile acid, cholesterol and other left-over substances.

Soluble fibre has numerous benefits including:

Weight loss or maintenance | gives you a full-stomach feeling which reduces the chances of overeating and also doesn’t as many calories to your diet as other carbohydrates

Decreased blood sugar spikes | maintaining more consistent energy levels and protecting you from the risk of type 2 diabetes

Heart protection  | due to lower cholesterol levels

Healthier bowel movements | protects against diarrhoea and constipation.

Soluble fibre can be most commonly found in the fleshy sections of vegetables and fruit, as well as the inner layer of grain (also known as the germ, e.g. wheatgerm).

Insoluble Fibre

By contrast, insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water and passes through your digestive system quickly and efficiently, with its rough consistency helping to dislodge and remove the left-overs in your gut such as undigested food, dead bacteria and blood cells, and various other nasties.

The benefits of including the correct amount of insoluble fibre in your diet are:

Weight loss or maintenance – similar to soluble fibre as it gives you a full-stomach feeling

Digestive health – helps to keep you regular, even more so than soluble fibre. It’s also a big factor in preventing bowel cancer

Improved immune system – due to the bacteria cleansing properties.

Insoluble fibre is primarily contained in fruit and veg skin and grain husks.

Stay Balanced

It’s important to get both soluble and insoluble fibre in roughly equal amounts in your diet to maintain good health and improve or maintain fitness levels.

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that adults get an average of 30g dietary fibre per day. However, results from Public Health England’s recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that adults across the UK only consume an average of 18g per day.

What’s causing the shortfall?

The problem is, most people aren’t eating a well-balanced diet. Heavily processed convenience foods often contain low amounts of fibre, or even have the fibre completely removed. If you live on a diet high in processed foods you’re storing up health and fitness problems, especially as you get older.

This isn’t helped by the fact that many people hold misconceptions about fibre.


Foods that are Bursting with Fibre

An Array of foods bursting with fibre

So far, we’ve discussed general food types that contain fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Now, let’s dive a little deeper and look at some specifics. If you can incorporate a few of the following foods into your daily diet, you’ll be well on your way to getting the fibre you need.

Popcorn

You may be wondering why popcorn is top of this list of high-fibre foods. It’s because when popcorn is air-popped it delivers a big fibre-kick (not oil popped or microwaved as this removes some of the dietary fibre).

It contains 15g of fibre per 100g, so snacking on popcorn throughout the day (without added sugar) will give you half of your recommended intake without a big blast of calories. Popcorn is probably the perfect snacking food, so don’t just wait for a visit to the cinema to eat it.

Wholegrain Breakfast Cereals

Porridge is the ultimate wholegrain breakfast cereal with approximately 1.7g of fibre per 100g of rolled oats. Porridge oats contain soluble fibre. Make sure you get plain rolled oats that haven’t been processed or contain added sugar. For insoluble fibre, wheat bran products such as shredded wheat or bran flakes are ideal. To get a healthy balance, it’s a good idea to alternate between porridge and wheat bran.

Whole Wheat Pasta and Rice

Trading in white carbs for whole wheat (brown) pasta and rice will drastically increase your fibre intake.

Fibre Source
Amount of fibre per 100g when cooked
White spaghetti
1.8g
Whole wheat spaghetti
4.5g
White rice
0.4g
Brown rice
2.5g

 

As you can see, swapping white spaghetti for whole wheat spaghetti more than doubles the amount of fibre (most of which is insoluble).

Whole Grain Bread

Wholegrain or whole-wheat bread contains 7g of fibre per 100g, as opposed to only 2.7g in white bread. Again, this is mostly insoluble fibre.

Barley and Rye

Barley and rye grains are superfoods when it comes to fibre. Barley contains a massive 17g of fibre per 100g in its natural form and rye is almost as good with 15g.

Barley and rye can be used to make risottos, soups, broths or to flavour stews, nut roasts and other meals or added to salads. Be aware that it loses some fibre when cooked.

Rye bread is a popular alternative to whole wheat bread and contains up to 6g of fibre per 100g.

Fruit

All fruit contains fibre, with the fleshy part mostly soluble and the skin or peel insoluble.

Here are the top ten fruits in terms of fibre content:

Fibre Source
Amount of fibre per 100g
Passionfruit
18g
Avocado
9g
Guava
6g
Raspberries
6g
Blackberries
6g
Pomegranate
5g
Persimmon
4g
Kiwifruit
4g
Pears
3g
Oranges
3g

 

Passionfruit contains an amazing amount of fibre, but make sure you eat the whole thing, including pulp and seeds which are a little tart, but perfectly edible. Just scoop it straight from the shell using a spoon.

Vegetables

Most vegetables contain a good amount of fibre, especially when eaten with the skin, so don’t be tempted to peel sweet potatoes if you can help it.

Here’s a list of the top 10 vegetables in terms of dietary fibre content:

Fibre Source
Amount of fibre per 100g
Artichoke
8.6g
Carrots
2.8g
Beetroot
2.8g
Sweetcorn
2.7g
Broccoli
2.6g
Brussels Sprouts
2.6g
Sweet Potatoes
2.5g
Kale
2g
Spinach
2g
Tomatoes
1.5g

Peas, beans and pulses

Peas, beans and pulses are good sources of fibre and also protein, making them especially good for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Here’s a list of the top 5 peas, beans and pulses in terms of dietary fibre content:

Fibre Source
Amount of fibre per 100g
Split Peas
8.3g
Black Beans
8.0g
Lentils
7.9g
Chickpeas
7.6g
Kidney Beans
6.4g

Nuts and seeds

Great for snacking or sprinkling on other high fibre dishes such as a bowl of porridge, nuts and seeds will boost your daily fibre intake. Seeds are especially good to help you get the right amount insoluble fibre in your diet.

Here’s a list of the top 7 nuts and seeds in terms of dietary fibre content:

Fibre Source
Amount of fibre per 100g
Chia Seeds
34.4g
Almonds
12.5g
Pistachios
10g
Coconut
9g
Sunflower Seeds
9g
Walnuts
7g
Pumpkin Seeds
6g

Timing Your Fibre Intake

Because the typical Western diet is generally quite low in fibre, you’ll probably need to plan your fibre intake throughout the day.

Try to introduce more vegetables, peas, beans and pulses into your main meals, eat 100% whole wheat bread and cereals for breakfast.

Also, snack on high-fibre, low calorie and low-fat foods in between meals.

Here’s a rough guide to the amounts of fibre you should be getting and when throughout a typical day.

Breakfast
7g
Morning Snack
5g
Lunch
6g
Afternoon Snack
3g
Dinner
7g
Evening Snack
3g

 

Fibre – Full of Goodness

We hope that this article has helped you to get the full picture of how important fibre is for your overall health and fitness, not just bowel health.

A well-balanced daily diet with at least 30g of fibre is perfectly suited for health-conscious people who exercise and train regularly. High-fibre foods tend to contain other healthy nutrients and are often good at providing slow-releasing energy, e.g., porridge oats.

Take the time to sit down and work out your current fibre intake, and how you can improve it if necessary. Your body will thank you in the long run!

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