The best description I have read about fibre that really puts things in perspective is how fibre is to plants as bone and muscle is to humans. It provides support for the structure and shape of plants. Due to all this support, it is a bit tougher to break down than other nutrients.
Let’s start with the digestion of fibre. Now, most nutrients undergo digestion in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine. Along the way they are broken into smaller pieces and combined with digestive enzymes and fluids. This puts the nutrients in a state that allows maximum absorption by the body.
Fibre however, takes a different route for digestion and absorption. Fibre passes through the stomach, and small intestine and it is not until it reaches the large intestine that it dramatically changes. This transformation occurs thanks to the trillions of bacteria that live in the large intestine. These are also foods that are considered fermentable fibre or prebiotics. This fermentable kind of fibre is also what can cause flatulence (gas). Foods that are rich in fermentable fibres include beans, legumes, oats, fruit and vegetables. Soluble fibre blends with water and can help with hunger reduction, reducing blood sugar spikes, and various metabolic processes. Insoluble fibre doesn’t blend with water and acts as a bulking agent and can help speed the passage of food and waste.
Bottom line: if you eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you will be doing alright. If you are following a SAD (Standard American Diet) lifestyle you will be lacking in fibre. The recommended lowest amount to consume per day (25-35 grams) is not reached by most people. However, as you move away from packed products and toward whole food, you will easily increase your fibre content.
Work to having all the colours of the rainbow on your plate each and every day. The colours of food correspond to vitamins and minerals, so the more variety, the better. These whole foods such as lentils, brown rice, and green veggies will have you and your gut grooving in no time!
A bonus to increased fibre (along with weight loss and increase energy) is increasing the amount of waste you get rid of. So if you are not sure where you stand now with your waste, and what is healthy and normal here is a fun infographic all about poop! So check it out, then sort your shit out!
Disclaimer: I did not create this infographic, you can see the Naturopath who owns it listed below. This is the most comprehensive graph I have found and what I like to use with clients.