Fibre. It doesn’t sound like a superfood, but there is overwhelming evidence that it could keep you healthier for longer and even reduce your chances of heart attack, stroke or type 2 diabetes.
Despite it being cheap and readily available, 90% of us Brits are not eating enough of it, and that could mean serious health consequences somewhere down the line.
What is dietary fibre?
Fibre is what your Nan probably used to refer as ‘roughage’ and is found in cereals, bread, vegetables and fruit, nuts, beans and lentils. It’s the part of these foods that is not able to be digested by our digestive enzymes. So why eat it at all you may ask?
Well despite not being digested itself, fibre plays an important role in keeping the whole digestive process working smoothly. It bulks up your stools and keeps waste moving through your intestines. It also helps to boost good bacteria in your gut by acting as a prebiotic. Fibre can also help to manage blood sugar levels as fibre rich foods can help to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. The soluble fibre found in beans and oats has been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fibre foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and is most helpful in keeping cholesterol in check. Insoluble fibre acts more like a broom to keep your digestive tract healthy. Most fibre rich foods contain a mix of both types of fibre. Good sources are wholegrains, bran, fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, potatoes with skin, nuts and seeds.
The recommended average fibre intake per day is 30g. it doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that a serving of porridge only contains 3g you realise that you might need to work quite hard to obtain 30g per day. Try the following suggestions to increase your daily fibre intake;
- Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal such as porridge oats, Weetabix or shredded wheat.
- Go for wholemeal or granary breads, or higher fibre white bread, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta or brown rice.
- Go for potatoes with their skins on, such as a baked potato or boiled new potatoes.
- Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
- Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries.
- Replace desserts with fresh or dried fruit.
- For snacks, try fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.