Fibre: "The Unsung Hero"
By Melanie Roskam, Certified Health Coach and Holistic Nutritional Practitioner
As most people are aware, optimal nutrition is the foundation of a healthy and robust immune system and focusing on these immune boosting practices is a great base.
But there is also another component called FIBRE that often gets a bad rep but fibre actually has the ability to supercharge your immune system in very simple yet effective ways.
Let us see how and why.
Fibre is a carbohydrate found in plant foods, technically, it isn’t a nutrient because it isn’t broken down and absorbed, but that’s where it’s magic lies.
There are three forms of fibre, insoluble fibre, soluble fibre & resistant starch.
- Soluble Fibre dissolves in water to form a gel like substance, is fermented by gut bacteria, helps to lower cholesterol, glucose levels, modulates the entero-hepatic circulation (essentially helps to transport toxins out of the body via poop)
- Insoluble fibre attracts water into the bowels and helps to give you those nice easy bowel movements (think poo bulking)
- Resistant Starch is a fibre/starch that is resistant to digestion (like insoluble fibre) and is fermented by gut bacteria (like soluble fibre) and produces a variety of benefits including acting as a prebiotic to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and most importantly produces short chain fatty acids which includes butyric acid (Is the source of 70% of the energy used by intestinal epithelial cells) helping to lower inflammation and boost your immune system . Think of resistant starch as supercharged soluble fibre and the best source of resistant starch is found in high soluble fibre foods.
You may be thinking you are getting enough fibre from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but these are mainly insoluble fibre.
Are we getting enough soluble fibre?
The highest amounts of soluble fibre is found in legumes often referred to as beans and pulses.
Are we eating our beans daily? For example:
- 1 cup of broccoli provides 5 grams of fibre
- 1 cup of cooked beans provides 15 grams of fibre.
It is recommended to get around 25-35 grams of fibre a day for optimal health and this target can be hard to get when relying on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
While it has been well known that a diet rich in fibre is great for our intestinal health, and some of the longest living people in the blue zones consume legumes daily as much as 1 cup a day, but we also need to eat dietary fibre daily to supercharge our immune system. This is especially soluble fibre from beans boosting our anti-inflammatory proteins. These proteins can increase antibody secretion and subsequently, strengthen our immunity, helping to provide protection against bacterial and viral infections viruses, along with a whole host of benefits fibre produces (see previous table). Now is a great time to eat more beans!
Easy way to eat more beans
Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let's have beans with every meal.
Not only are beans in high fibre but they packed with antioxidants, when you think antioxidants think colour, think black beans. They are an excellent additional source of plant based protein, are mineral rich, they are cheap and they can fit into a healthy food budget. I highly recommend you start to introduce beans into your daily diet if you have not already, start with ½ at one meal a day and build to 1 cup most days.
Types of Beans
- Black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, split peas, kidney beans, mung beans, aduki beans, baked beans, green peas
- Seeds high in soluble fibre: Chia seeds, Buckwheat
If you're really committed to eating more beans - buy a pressure cooker. This way you can cook your own beans in very short periods of time.
- Toss can beans through a salad, black beans are great as they don’t really taste like anything and have the highest amount of soluble fibre and are easy on the digestion when starting out.
- Add hummus to your foods, as a stand alone hero, with vegetables sticks or whole grain crackers or just add to a meal for a favour enhancement.
- Baked beans, a classic favorite for breakfast, when purchasing look for low salt and sugar or make your own
- Chilli Bean nachos
- Thicken stews & soups with beans and legumes.
- Make your next curry vegetable and opt for lentils and beans instead
- 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinse
- 1 medium cucumber, chopped
- 2 chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (when in season)
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
- crumbled feta (to taste, if tolerated)
- Handful of whole or chopped leafy greens, spinach, silverbeet, rocket
- Salt & pepper to taste
Lemon and Parsley Dressing
- 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
- ½ tsp of ground cumin
- Optional 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Salt & pepper to taste.
- Make salad: In a large bowl, toss together chickpeas with the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Make vinaigrette: In a jar fitted with a lid, combine ingredients, close the jar and shake until emulsified, then season with salt and pepper.
- Dress salad with vinaigrette to serve
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 Folkerts J, Stadhouders R, Redegeld FA, et al. Effect of Dietary Fiber and Metabolites on Mast Cell Activation and Mast Cell-Associated Diseases. Front Immunol. 2018;9:1067. Published 2018 May 29. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01067