What’s so fabulous about fibre?

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We are only just beginning to explore the intricacies of how the food we eat interacts with our bodies and in particular, our gut microbiota (the incredible 100 trillion bacteria that live in our digestive system). Fibre is a vital part of what can be called your ‘way of life’ or your daily normal diet (click here to see my previous post on ‘Which diet is best for me?’). The aim of this article is to share the evidence on the benefits of fibre, where we can get it from and how we can apply this to our everyday. 

The WHY of FIBRE.

Looking into the importance and benefits of fibre will hopefully encourage you to welcome it into your day wherever and however you can.

FIRST BENEFIT: Fibre has hormonal effects.

What is a hormone and how does it relate to fibre?

The word Hormone is Greek for ‘set in motion’. If you imagine a hormone like a parent on a mission, intent on getting things done; hormones are chemicals that travel to certain organs and exert a specific effect in order to make things happen.

An example is the fascinating hormone Insulin which is remarkably designed to allow the body to utilise sugar/glucose from the food we eat to be used as fuel (sugar is essential for our survival, click here to read more on why). Insulin is able to unlock cells, in effect telling the body to absorb this energy source for immediate use or to store it for later.

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How is insulin linked to fibre?

The fibre in your meal adds bulk to your food, which means it takes longer to chew and travel through the body, slowing down the digestive process. This slowing down means that food takes longer to leave the stomach and longer for the digested food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This results in a delayed release of sugar into the blood and a delayed release of the hormone Insulin.

Why is this so important?

Dr Jason Fung, Canadian kidney specialist describes the action of Insulin similar to the railway guards in Japan called ‘pushers’. The job of these ‘pushers’ is to cram as many people onto the subway trains as they can during peak time. Similarly, Insulin is released by the body after eating highly refined carbohydrates, for example,  to ‘push’ the sugar efficiently into our cells. With the sugar now being taken up by the cells, there can be a sudden drop in blood sugar which if persists in some people can cause feelings of hunger, tiredness, fatigue and dizziness- symptoms of what we may call a ‘sugar crash’.

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Can adding leafy greens to our diet affect how fast we age?

Findings :

A recent study has suggested that eating 1-2 portions of green vegetables daily may have an effect on our cognitive decline.

The study found those who ate a higher proportion of green vegetables showed better brain function over 5 years with better memory and fewer signs of dementia.

What does this mean for us:

Through our daily food choices we may be able to have an influence on our ageing process. By actively trying to find a way to add greens to every meal we may be able to slow down how fast our brains are ageing, preserve memory for longer and reduce the risk of dementia.

Take away:

If we aim to incorporate greens into every meal, we can then easily manage 2 portions a day at least.

1 portion = 1/2 cup of cooked greens or 1 cup of fresh.

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Ideas :

BREAKFAST

  • Try adding lightly steamed or wilted baby spinach to your morning smoothie or your breakfast eggs.

LUNCH

  • A leafy green salad with your choice of protein (beans, hummus, egg, fish, chicken) and good fat (extra virgin olive oil, seeds, nuts, avocados).
  • Add dark leafy greens like watercress or rocket to your sandwich, roll or wrap.

DINNER

  • Add a cup of chopped broccoli to your main dish which could be a stir-fry, curry or pasta sauce.
  • Use frozen spinach if it’s easier and its certainly better than no greens at all.
  • Consider a cup of dark salad greens such as watercress or rocket with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as a regular side to your meals.
  • Or lightly steamed broccoli as a side dish drizzled with olive oil.
  • Use dark lettuce leaves as wraps and instead of burger buns.

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Please note:

High nutrient greens such as kale and spinach can cause an unfavourable reaction in some people.

This is due to compounds called ‘Oxalates’ which can bind to calcium to the blood and cause muscle weakness and stomach pain.

Lightly steaming spinach, broccoli and kale reduces this effect.

Journal sources :

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29263222

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15852398

Do share any great ideas you may have to help us get more greens into our daily diet.