Fibre: Is your high protein diet getting in the way?
Updated: Feb 7
Are you part of the high protein brigade that has ditched porridge, cereals and toast for eggs, sausage and cheese? Protein is great for satiety and breaking away from the sugary foods but too much of a good thing is bad (at least when it comes to food). A high protein diet usually limits high fibre foods and, taken to extreme, this does your gut no good.
High fibre, less bowel cancer
Australia and New Zealand have some of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. It's our second biggest cancer killer with over 15,000 new cases diagnosed in Australia each year. A lot has to do with our fibre intake - the higher the intake of fibre and whole grains, the lower the risk of bowel cancer.
Fibre isn't just good for preventing bowel cancer. When researchers looked at a range of studies (meta-analyses) they found that eating an extra 7-10 grams of fibre a day dropped the risk of bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and all-cause mortality by around 10%.
How much fibre should we be eating?
The 'Adequate Intake' (AI) is set at 25-30 grams fibre a day. The 'Suggested Dietary Target' (SDT) is around 30-40 grams, with men needing more than women.
How much fibre are we eating?
Australians eat around 20-25 grams fibre a day. 80% of us don't meet the AI. But take heart. We are doing a lot better than people in the UK and USA. As an example, 30 grams or 1/3 of a cup of nuts has 3-6 grams protein.
What is fibre and what foods contain it?
Fibre is found only in plant foods. It is classed into three types.
Insoluble fibre works in an obvious physical way, mostly in the large intestine. It produces larger and softer stools and makes you go more often. It also speeds up transit time which means less hanging around in the digestive system, similar to a quick transit time at the airport. In both cases it makes for a happier, healthier person.
Foods high in insoluble fibre include brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, wholemeal & rye breads, high fibre cereals, nuts and seeds, skins of fruit and vegetables, and popcorn - ideally the plain type you pop yourself, not the stuff you get at the movies.
Soluble fibre absorbs water, bulking it into a thick gel-like substance. This viscous gel slows the time it takes for food to pass through the small intestine. It makes you feel full for longer. It helps reduce cholesterol and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Foods high in soluble fibre include oats, lentils, dried or canned beans, barley, fruits, vegetables.
This is starch that resists digestion in the small intestine. It travels on to the large intestine where good bacteria ferment it. In fact some resistant starches actually encourage more of these good bacteria to grow. This fermentation is a great for gut health. It produces short chain fatty acids such as butyrate which promote the death of cancer cells in the colon.
Like the other types of fibre, resistant starch has a bulking effect which promotes 'regularity'. It also promotes satiety, making you less likely to want to over-eat.
Foods high in resistant starch include cold cooked potatoes, porridge, rice and pasta (as in potato salad, rice salad, sushi, pasta salad; firm bananas; legumes (lentils, canned and dried beans, baked beans). It's also added to some breakfast cereals, breads and Sanitarium's Up and Go drink in the form of 'Hi-maise'.
High protein & high fibre
Some high fibre foods are also high in protein. These are the ones to include in your high protein meal plan: lentils, chick peas, split peas, canned and dried beans, oats, nuts. here are a few ideas:
Spread peanut butter (no added salt or sugar) or hummus on Vita Wheat crackers
Throw a can of chick peas and a handful of red lentils into soup (recipe below)
Add chick peas to roast vegetable salad
Add red lentils to mince
Add oats to meatballs
For fantastic information about fibre go to the Monash University FODMAP blog
For fantastic information about nuts go to Nuts For Life Australia