Fibre: the Fourth Macro? Fibre’s crucial role in gut health and beyond
Okay, so the macros you’re used to looking out for are protein, carbohydrates and fat. But fibre and water are so important that they could well be considered the fourth and fifth macronutrients. Macronutrients (molecules we need to consume in large quantities) are critical to healthy living - and fibre’s importance should not be underestimated.
With the least glamorous reputation, fibre is has been downplayed as simply non-digestible mass that helps ‘keep you moving’. Whether directly or indirectly, fibre is involved in a huge range of functions from aiding healthy digestion to energy production, appetite and metabolic regulation and of course, to bowel function.
Fibre's key functions:
Fibre and blood glucose levels
Soluble fibre slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, therefore reducing the spike in blood glucose triggered when you eat.
Fibre and bowel function
Dietary fibre (particularly Insoluble) helps to prevent constipation by increasing stool weight and decreasing gut transit time. The effect is enhanced if you stay hydrated, too.
When friendly gut bacteria ferment fibre they produce short chain fatty acids; which are an important source of energy for intestinal cells
Satiety and diet
Fibre provides bulk without adding calories, so it can leave you feeling fuller for longer, and as fibre comes from fruit and vegetables (as well as legumes and wholegrains), upping your fibre quota is also a great way to generally improve your diet, as they also contain lots of essential nutrients
Tips for eating more fibre
Getting fibre in at breakfast time makes for a great start to the day; porridge oats and wholegrains are both a great source of fibre. Think about substitutions through the day (wholegrain instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white), and adding plenty of fruit and vegetables to every meal, and you’ll be well on your way.