It’s important to have lots of fibre in our diet as it works in partnership with our friendly gut bacteria to literally flush many calories down the toilet.On my last visit to Tanzania, I started to wonder if it was just a lower intake of food that made everyone look so lean and healthy, or whether something else was stopping their obesity rates rising like they are in Great Britain. I asked if anyone had a secret to tell me, but sadly nobody understood that there was any other way to be. When I showed a classroom of children photos of fat British people (just type ‘fat British people’ into Google and click ‘images’ to experience what the kids saw), they burst out laughing and ran around the classroom, sticking their bellies out as far as they could! That night, back in my hotel, I found a report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America titled, ‘Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa’. It began by stating the methodology: “We compared the faecal microbiota of European children (EU) and that of children from a rural African village in Burkina Faso (BF), where the diet, high in fibre content, is similar to that of early human settlements at the time of the birth of agriculture”.
The results were staggering, and the whole report is online and worthy of a read. Here is just a small snippet from their conclusion: “Both in the Western world and in developing countries diets rich in fat, protein and sugar, together with reduced intake of unabsorbable fibres, are associated with a rapid increase in the incidence of non-infectious intestinal diseases”. Don’t assume this is suggesting that we shouldn’t eat fat, protein or sugar, because if it was there would be nothing left to eat. What it is suggesting, is that eating a combination of all three causes problems, especially in the absence of fibre.
Dr Shan Hussain
How important is fibre to our health? According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming 35g of fibre was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 54% and death from all causes by 37%.
For those who juice, stop right now! Juicing is one of the most ridiculous trends of the last 50 years. When we extract juice from our fruits and vegetables, we lose all of their great fibres, miss out on most of their nutrients (healthy nutrients are normally bound to the fibre) and often end up with a glass full of fructose (sugar). Orange juice is possibly the worst of them all. If you don’t like fruit the way nature designed them, don’t juice the goodness out of them, but instead retain all the benefits by liquefying or blending them. We need to throw the entire fruit into the blender, or we are missing out on the best bits. Sure, we will want to peel the skins off our oranges and bananas, but then it’s essential to throw the whole fruit in our high-powered blending machine.
What is fibre? It’s the rough guys who hang around with macronutrients. They can either be absorbed in water (soluble) or not (insoluble). Fibre is great at making us feel full without taking on lots of calories. In fact, insoluble fibre tends to pass through the system without leaving any calories behind, and even soluble fibre is extremely light in calories.
For example, there are pastas, spaghetti and noodles that have been consumed in Japan for thousands of years that have zero calories and zero CARBS! How is that possible? Known as shirataki (meaning ‘white waterfall’) and made from glucomannan which is found in the root of the konjac plant, these transparent insoluble fibre noodles are edible, but not digestible. They absorb water so well that, while what is eaten might look identical to normal wheat noodles, they are actually made of 95% water temporarily suspended in fibre. The great news is they are now starting to become available in UK supermarkets.
Why tell you about glucomannan? Because it’s a great example of what fibre does. It can fill up our stomach, and at the same time be used as a vehicle to transport micronutrients around our body. There are numerous health benefits for making sure we eat plenty of fibre in our diet, and I felt it right and proper to feature at least one quote from our amazing National Heath Service in this book. The NHS website states, “Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health”. Glucomannan is also the only ingredient recognized by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) to aid weight loss.