Fibre isn’t only found in prunes but its ‘boring’ image means many of us may be missing out, which could be harming our health.
Think fibre and the chances are prunes and brown bread pop into your mind – not quite as appealing as green juices and smashed avocado. But while fibre may not be fashionable, it can support your health in lots of surprising ways, and it’s likely you’re missing out.
How much fibre do we need?
We should be eating 30g of fibre a day but most of us in the UK only manage a pitiful 18g. The recent trend for high-protein, low-carb diets may be driving our low fibre intake, as fibre is found in carbohydrates. And this could be bad news for our health. One study by the University of Aberdeen in 2011 linked high-protein, low-carb diets with poor colorectal health, including an increased risk of colon cancer.
Already convinced you should be upping your intake? Here’s what you need to know about fibre and how it can benefit your wellbeing.
Two types of fibre
Fibre is not just one substance. There are two main types, and they’re both important for your health in different ways.
What is it? A type of fibre that dissolves in the fluids in your digestive system and forms a gel-like substance in your gut. Soluble fibre is also sometimes called fermentable fibre, as some forms are fermented in your large intestine by gut bacteria, producing health-boosting short-chain fatty acids.
Where’s it found? You can find soluble fibre in root vegetables such as swede and carrots; linseeds; beans and pulses; fruit, such as bananas and apples; grains including oats, rye and barley.
What is it? A form of fibre that passes through your digestive system without being broken down.
Where’s it found? Insoluble fibre is in lots of ‘brown’ wholemeal foods such as brown bread, rice and pasta; vegetables; nuts and seeds; cereal grains; potatoes with their skin on.
3 ways fibre helps your health
1. Boosts your digestion
Fibre helps prevents constipation – soluble fibre softens stools so they’re easier to pass, while insoluble fibre can push food through your gut. The digestive benefits of a high-fibre diet don’t stop there; it can also reduce your chances of developing diverticular disease, when bulges develop in the large intestine and can become inflamed.
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2. Lowers cholesterol
Some types of soluble fibre, particularly beta glucans – found at high levels in oats – and pectins, which are found in foods including pears and plums, can help lower cholesterol. It’s a good idea to include more of them in your daily diet if you know your cholesterol’s too high, or you want to protect your cardiovascular health.
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3. Keeps you slim
Yes, really. Soluble fibre helps lower blood sugar levels and can keep you fuller for longer. But there may be other reasons fibre’s a great waist-whittler; research has found some types of fibre, including a form called resistant starch, can help feed good gut bacteria and reduce the risk of obesity. And forget those high-protein, low-carb diets if you’re trying to lose weight – a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found simply making sure you eat 30g of fibre daily could be enough to help you shed extra kilos.
Your high-fibre day
Here’s how to fill up on fibre throughout your day:
Breakfast – porridge with chopped apple, banana and linseeds
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Lunch – hummus with salad on seeded rye bread or oat cakes
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Dinner – tofu stir-fry made with lots of chopped veg, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served on wholewheat noodles or brown rice
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Snacks – dried fruit and nuts; cereal bar; popcorn
Drinks – a fruit smoothie, rather than simple juice which often has the fibre removed
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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