Fibre is found in foods like cereals, fruit and vegetables. It's the part of plant foods our bodies can't digest. We still need fibre, even though our bodies don't break it down or absorb it. Fibre keeps our digestive system healthy by providing bulk to help food move through our digestive tracts at the proper rate.
As well as keeping our digestive system healthy, dietary fibre helps with other processes in our body, like stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels. In countries with traditionally high fibre diets, diseases like bowel cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease are much less common.
Most Australians aren't eating enough fibre - the average daily intake is 18 to 25g. According to the Australian Heart Foundation, we should be aiming for 30g everyday. Health experts recommend children eat 10g of fibre a day, plus an extra gram for every year of age. For example, a 10 year old child should eat 15-20g of fibre per day.
Types of fibre
There are two main categories of fibre. We need to include both in our daily diet:
- Soluble fibre - Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oats and oatbran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, lentils, peas, soymilk and soy products. One of soluble fibres’ major roles is to lower blood cholesterol levels and to help with constipation.
- Insoluble fibre - Insoluble fibre can be found in wholegrain foods like bread, rice, cereals and flour. Insoluble fibre can also be found in wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and dried beans. A major role of insoluble fibre is to add bulk to faeces and prevent constipation and associated problems such as haemorrhoids.