How Healthy are you really?
One of the tricky things about discussing health with people is that there really isn’t a good definition of what qualifies as “healthy”. Is it eating 5 servings of fruits and veg a day (but does it matter if they’re organic)? Or is it walking 10,000 steps (but do you also have to stand for 8 hours)? We’ve found that no matter what their lifestyles are, the majority of our family and friends think that they’re pretty healthy and informed, but vegan or not, the thing that most people tend to overlook is fibre.
Gut health is having its moment right now, but according to most doctors, the effects of probiotics (no matter how expensive) are largely unproven, and they may even cause more harm than good by overloading your specific gut with excess bacteria that you already have enough of. The number one thing that you can do for a good gut is to load up on fibre!
Currently, the NHS recommends that adults of 30g of fibre a day, and the US recommends 38g for men and 25g for women daily. A 2014 nation-wide survey showed that amongst 19-64 year-olds, males averaged just 14.7g and females 12.8g per day. That’s a pretty big gap, and what’s more, the gap has grown since a decade ago, meaning that despite the trendiness of all things healthy right now, as a society, we’re getting in less fibre than ever, with big consequences to our health.
What is fibre?
To keep things simple, fibre comes in two ways: soluble (dissolvable in water) and insoluble (not dissolvable in water). Both types help slow digestion, which keeps you feeling full and regulates blood sugar. Soluble fibre binds with fatty acids to flush them out of your body, and insoluble fibre helps move waste along. Most whole foods have both types of fibre, so you don’t need to worry too much about the split between the two.
Unfortunately, taking a fibre supplement or adding isolated fibre sources (e.g. psyllium, inulin, etc..) is notthe same as consuming whole food fibre, so think twice before buying that “probiotic” cereal. They lack the minerals and vitamins that accompany fibre in real food, which are intrinsically linked to fibre itself in providing the benefits to our health, according to a recent Harvard Public School of Health survey of 400,000 people. These fibre ingredients may also cause digestive distress by themselves, and unfortunately many people wrongly blame it on the fibre, not the supplement.
Why is it important?
Fibre is essential for our health. SACN in 2014 published the most comprehensive metanalysis of 200+ studies and trials, and they found that high fibre diets are strongly inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease, coronary events, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancers. The figure below summarises the relationship between cardiovascular diseases and fibre intake:
Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer worldwide, and it’s pretty amazing that fibre is essentially a super drug that can reduce it drastically.
How can we eat enough?
Here are a few easy ways to increase your fibre intake:
- Don’t peel your vegetables (e.g. carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms) before eating them. The peel is full of fibery goodness!
- On an average, 8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day is enough to provide 30g of fibre, give or take. If that seems daunting to you, try starting your day with a chocolate smoothie (8g of fibre) or green one (9g of fibre).
- If fibre gives you digestive distress, don’t fear! The bloating is only temporary and your body will get used to it, unless you have a digestive disorder like IBS. Cooking vegetables is an easy way to make them more digestible.
- For lunches and dinners on-the-go, look for meals that have a few servings of vegetables in them. Our 5-a-day pots both have 5 servings in them, and the Asian Teriyaki pot is packed with 22g of fibre, and the Coronation Chickpea with 20g.
- When travelling, it’s sometimes difficult to eat all the fibre you need, but you can’t go wrong with snacking on an apple or an orange, both of which have about 4.5g per serving.
- Berries are an amazing source of fibre: one cup of raspberries has 8g, and blackberries have 7.6g! We buy ours frozen to save money and put them in everything – smoothies, with ice cream, on pancakes, etc…
- Beans and lentils can be your best friends, and you don’t always need to consume them whole in bean salads or chillis, though they’re certainly tasty. Think of creative ways to enjoy them, like a salad dressing, pasta sauce, lasagne, or of course, hummus, which we’ve been known to eat by the spoonful by itself!
Do you guys have any suggestions on how to incorporate more fibre? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you do!