The Importance of Fibre In a Vegan Diet
Since there isn't a clear definition of what constitutes "healthy," it can be challenging to talk about health with your friends. Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day, but does it really matter if they are organic? Or do you have to walk 10,000 steps in addition to having to stand for 8 hours? The majority of our family and friends, regardless of their dietary preferences, believe that they are generally healthy and knowledgeable. However, whether they are vegan or not, most people tend to underestimate the importance of fibre.
Although probiotics are currently pretty hot, most doctors believe that their effects are mostly unproven and that they may even have the opposite effect by overburdening your unique gut with extra bacteria that you already have enough of. So this blog post is to tell you to fill up on fibre—the it's best thing you can do for a healthy stomach!
Doctors in the US advise 38g of fibre for men and 25g for women per day, compared to the NHS's recommendation of 30g for adults. However, according to a 2014 nationwide survey, men aged 19 to 64 only consumed an average of 14.7g of protein per day, while women consumed 12.8g. As you can that's a pretty big difference, and to make matters worse, the gap has widened since a decade ago. This means that despite the current trendiness of all things healthy, as a culture, we're consuming less fibre than ever, with significant negative health effects.
Let's Talk About Fibre
Most people get their fibre in two forms, soluble (dissolvable in water) and insoluble, to make things easy (not dissolvable in water). Both forms aid in sluggish digestion, which maintains satiety and controls blood sugar. Insoluble fibre aids in the movement of waste whereas soluble fibre bonds with fatty acids to help your body eliminate them. You shouldn't worry too much about the distribution of the two forms of fibre because most whole meals include both.
Unfortunately, consuming whole food fibre is not the same as taking a fibre supplement or adding isolated fibre sources (such psyllium, inulin, etc.), so think carefully before you run down to the supermarket to buy that "probiotic" cereal. According to a recent Harvard Public School of Health assessment of 400,000 people, they lack the minerals and vitamins that are present in real food and are inextricably tied to fibre itself in offering the advantages to human health. Unfortunately, a lot of people mistakenly attribute the digestive discomfort to the fibre rather than the supplement when these fibre elements can also cause it on their own.
Why Is Important You Have Enough Fibre In Your Diet?
Our health depends on fibre. High fibre diets are proven to help reduce the risk of suffering strokes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer according to SACN's 2014 publication of an analysis of more than 200 studies and trials. The link between cardiovascular diseases and fibre consumption is summarised in the graph below:
The leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease, making it all the more surprising that fibre functions almost like a super medication that can significantly lower mortality rates.
How Can We Make Sure We Eat Enough Fibre?
To make sure you are getting enough fibre, here are some tips you can try:
- Eight servings of fruit and vegetables, on average, each day are sufficient to supply 30g of fibre, give or take. If you find that intimidating, try starting your day with a green or chocolate smoothie (8g of fibre).
- It can be hard to eat enough fibre when travelling, but you can't go wrong with a snack of an apple or an orange, both of which provide about 4.5g of fibre per serving.
- Try not to peel your vegetables before eating them, such as carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms. The peel is a great source of fibre!
- Get into eating Berries! Blackberries and raspberries both provide 7.6g and 8g of fibre, from just one small cup of each berry. In order to save money (and cut down on waste), we buy them frozen and use them in a variety of dishes, including protein shakes, with yoghurt for breakfast or even just one their own as a mid afternoon snack.
- Lentils and beans can be your best buddies, and while they are delicious in bean salads and chilli, you don't always have to eat them whole. Consider using them in other ways, such as hummus, (which I may have been known to consume by the spoonful on its own), a salad dressing, pasta sauce, or as a base for a vegan lasagna.
- Don't worry if fibre causes you bloating. Unless you have a digestive issue like IBS, the bloating won't last long and your body will adjust to it. Vegetables can easily be made more digestible by cooking them.
- Look for meals that contain a few servings of vegetables for lunches and dinners that are consumed on the fly. All of our meals contain at least 2 of your 5 a day and are loaded with fibre: the Vegan Moussaka has 18g per serving and the Vegetable Shepherds Pie has over 14g.
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