The saying goes that you should never discuss religion and politics with people at the dinner table. I’m going to add a third topic: diet.
As someone that eats a plant-based diet, (I can already hear some of you clicking away) I’ve discovered few things that are a more incendiary topic of conversation than what we choose to eat but I’m going to try and lay out a few objective facts about the state of our diet.
As a global population, we’re getting fatter, sicker and diseases that can be directly or indirectly linked to our dietary choices dominate the list of leading causes of death (source). The 2015 Global Burden of Disease Study, funded by the Gates Foundation, (source) found that our modern diet poses the biggest risk to human health. If you combine dietary risks (1st) with high body mass index (6th) you can see that we’re literally eating ourselves into an early grave.
Our modern, high-speed lifestyles have changed our food beyond almost all recognition. A large part of our diets are now highly processed foods, filled with artificial ingredients and sweeteners, whilst at the same time, our vegetables have been shorn of almost all nutrients. We consume vast amounts of sugar, fats and artificial ingredients and an ever decreasing amount of vitamins and nutrients whilst trying to counter it by taking a variety of supplements.
European guidelines set dietary fibre RDA (recommended daily allowance) at 25g, the UK set it at 30g for adults and the US at 38g for men and 25g for women, yet it’s estimated that 98% of people in the US are fibre deficient and the numbers aren’t much better in Europe.
In a number of population studies, dietary fibre has been linked to protecting against a large number of serious disease including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and various cancers as well high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars.
In a world that’s obsessed with protein, the question we should really be asking is ‘Where do you get your fibre from?’.
Fibre is found in plants, it’s what gives plants their rigid structure. The simple answer is if you want to eat more fibre, eat more plants. However, it does get a little more complex as there are two types of fibre in our diets: Soluble and Insoluble and it’s important to understand the difference and the role that each one plays.
According to the UK’s NHS:
Soluble fibre dissolves in the water in your digestive system. It may help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood. If you have constipation, gradually increasing sources of soluble fibre – such as fruit and vegetables, oats and golden linseeds – can help soften your stools and make them easier to pass.
Foods that contain soluble fibre include:
- Oats, barley, and rye
- Fruit, such as bananas and apples
- Root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes
- Golden linseeds
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water. It passes through your gut without being broken down and helps other foods move through your digestive system more easily. Insoluble fibre keeps your bowels healthy and helps prevent digestive problems.
Good sources of insoluble fibre include:
- Wholemeal bread
- Nuts and seeds
Ensuring you get a good mix of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds as part of your diet will ensure you get enough fibre, supercharge your digestive system and help insulate you against some very serious disease.