Considering different types of fibre have different effects in our gut, research suggests that eating a combination and variety of different high-fibre foods is important for our optimal health. High fibre foods in general include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and including all of these foods in your diet is recommended (where tolerated) for a variety of gut benefits. However, understanding which may be the most beneficial, including to help restore and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your large bowel, may be the key – fibre is not just about keeping your bowel movements regular and passing with ease!
Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth likens the gut to a garden. “Think of your microbial community as your own garden that you’re responsible for. You need to make sure the soil (your intestines) and the plants (microbes) are healthy, containing plenty of nutrients and to stop weeds or poisonous plants (toxins or disease microbes) taking over, we need to cultivate the widest variety of different plants and seeds as possible”. I love this!
Note: Some people are sensitive to certain fibres and sugars in the foods listed below, which may result in gas, bloating, pain, indigestion etc. Get in touch if you need advice on determining how to manage the following foods in your diet. Some work to repair and restore the balance of bacteria in your gut may be needed first.
Fibres and foods most beneficial for our gut:
1. Prebiotic fibres (e.g. galacto-oligosaccharides and fructans): support the growth of beneficial bacteria and the production of short chain fatty acids, which provide nourishment to our intestinal cells and the movement of fibre through the gut. Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, red kidney beans, borlotti beans, four bean mix) and lentils are one of the highest sources, with others including onions, garlic, leeks, wheat and nuts.
2. Resistance starch: starch not digested in the small intestine (therefore acts as a fibre) and provides food for our bacteria. Good sources include cooked and cooled potatoes and pasta, as well as legumes, lentils, barley, rye, cashews, oats, green bananas, banana flour.
3. Simple sugars (e.g. fructose and polyols) in fruits and vegetables: draws water into the gut to assist movement of fibre and prevent constipation. Apples, pears, figs, mango, asparagus, artichoke, sugar snap peas, snow peas, mushrooms and cauliflower are good sources.
4. Polysaccharides: provide bulk and absorb water to promote normal bowel movements. These are found in bran, oats, barley, rye, wholegrain bread and brown rice.
If increasing the amount of fibre in your day, start slowly to ensure your gut bacteria has time to multiply and adapt.
Of course fibre isn’t the only important component of our diet to keep our gut (and body) healthy and happy. High amounts of refined sugars and starches, certain types of fats, toxins and alcohol can have a negative impact, while natural foods rich in vitamins, minerals, nourishing fats, proteins and antioxidants will have a positive effect. But work on one thing at a time I say!
Hope this helps