Fibre: We're often being told we should eat plenty of it or more of it. As a child I remember being told by my grandfather I should eat my potato skins on my jacket potatoes as that's where all the fibre was. But what exactly is fibre? Why should we be eating it? Where do we get it from (apart from potato skins) and how much is enough?
In short, any type of carbohydrate which is not digestible is called fibre. There are also some indigestible proteins but these are less common.
While it is often referred to a "roughage" it absorbs liquid in the digestive tract making waste bulkier and easier to pass through the digestive system. This in turn speeds up the digestive process reducing the amount of time digested food spends in the system, reducing the likelihood of purefaction, the risk of infection and carciogenic cell changes caused by certain foods (particularly meat). Some fibres, such as those found in oats, are called soluble fibres and these help to keep our blood sugar levels reducing carb and sugar cravings. Wheat fibre can swell up to ten times it's size when eaten with sufficient fluids and helps to control appetite in general keeping us feeling fuller for longer.
Ideally we should be eating at least 35g of fibre per day from a variety of sources such as beans, lentils, seeds, oats and of course fruit and vegetables. Vegetables however, should only be lightly cooked to avoid breakdown of the fibre during cooking.
In the UK the average intake is 22g compared to rural Africans who eat approximately 55g per day. It is significant that rural Africa has one of the lowest rates of bowel disease including appendicitis, bowel cancer, colitis and diverticulitis in the world.
Of course it's not always easy to get 35g per day from a modern diet on a busy world. Fortunately there are supplements that can help. We recommend Dietary Fibre Complex from Wikaniko which is made up from a variety of natural sources, contains no added sugar, salt, preservative, wheat, gluten, lactose, dairy, colours, fillers or flavours and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
That said' it's always better to get it from your plate if you can!