Eating more fibre can improve gut health which is key to overall health and well-being.
Gut health is a trendy word nowadays but what does it mean? The ‘gut’ refers to the digestive or gastrointestinal tract of the human body which includes the intestines, stomach, food pipe and more. This 9m long tract houses over 70% of our immune cells and that has a big impact on our health and well-being. In fact, our gut has a ‘microbiome’ of its own, a world of microorganisms and bacteria that play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health, especially through immunity. It is important to note that contrary to their name, we have a variety of bacteria many of which are good for our health. It is these good bacteria that we want to keep alive and happy in our gut!
Good gut health signifies a healthy digestive system where processes such as digestion and nutrient absorption occur smoothly. Beyond this, maintaining good gut health is linked to a variety of benefits including reduced risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers as well as autoimmune diseases. There also exists a strong mind-gut connection that can benefit from optimal gut health and this helps prevent mental health related conditions such as depression and anxiety.
There are many aspects to optimising gut health such as our food choices, exercise and stress levels. When it comes to food, a key player in gut health is fibre – the indigestible component of foods that helps our gut and its microbiome thrive. Fibre passing through our intestine helps keep the bowels regular and certain fibrous foods are fuel for the good bacteria in our gut. All fibre is from plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and they each provide different benefits to our body.
The three main types of fibre are:
- Insoluble fibre which is the ‘roughage’ that we get from wholegrains, chewy parts or outer skin of fruit, vegetables especially cauliflower, cabbage etc, and nuts and seeds
- Soluble fibre that dissolves with water and slows the digestion process. Found in foods such as oats, rajma and other dals, fruits like apples and mangoes, and vegetables like carrots, and
- Resistant starch which is food for good bacteria that comes from cooked and cooled potato, rice and more.
To meet our needs and enjoy good gut health one should aim to:
- Have a minimum of 2-3 cups of vegetables through the day (think sabjis, salads, mixed in to common dishes)
- Have 1-2 fresh fruits per day
- Incorporate different types of wholegrains (g. millets, unpolished rice, quinoa etc), dals and pulses (e.g. moong, chickpea, lentils etc) in our diet.
An overall balanced diet is critical for health, and the benefits of fibre can no longer be ignored. When it comes to fibre, remember that variety is important! Having different fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, dals not only adds variety for your palette but also your gut and that keeps the gut healthy and happy. Choose what’s in season to incorporate different flavours and provide your gut with more diversity. Be careful though, as it is possible to have too much fibre and it can cause discomforts such as bloating. Hence, it is recommended to increase fibre intake gradually rather than all at once to prevent these digestive issues from arising.
Ms Ananya Somani
Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)
Jarma Wellness LLP – School Health, Mental Health & Safety.
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