Are you eating enough fibre?

By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner

Fibre is an essential nutrient that is extremely beneficial for our health. Yet, in the UK, average consumption is significantly below the recommended intake. This article aims to equip you with all the knowledge you need to ensure you are including enough fibre in your diet.

Fibre is a form of non-digestible carbohydrate found in plants. There are two main types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, found in foods like fruit, oats, beans, nuts and seeds, dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon, where it is fermented by bacteria. It supports good gut health and can also help maintain good blood sugar control and healthy cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre, found in foods like whole grains, nuts and vegetables, does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the digestive system. It helps to prevent constipation. Fibre-rich foods typically contain both types of fibre.

What are the benefits of including fibre in your diet? High fibre diets are associated with reduced cholesterol levels, as well as a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes. In addition, choosing foods high in fibre can help you to feel fuller for longer (therefore aiding weight management), keep your digestive system healthy, support your immune system, and prevent constipation. What’s more, many sources of fibre, such as fruits and vegetables, are good sources of vitamins and minerals, which are needed for good health.

In the UK, the recommended fibre intake for an adult is 30g a day. Currently, the average consumption is about 18g a day, which means that most of us should be looking to incorporate more sources of fibre into our diets.

Top tips to increase fibre in your diet:

  • Leave the skin on fruit and vegetables (make sure you wash them before eating!).
  • Add pulses such as beans and lentils to sauces, pasta dishes, stews, salads and soups.
  • Choose a whole-grain breakfast cereal that is high in fibre (aim for at least 6 grams of fibre per 100 grams). Add fruit, nuts and/or seeds to further increase the fibre content of your breakfast.
  • Choose whole grain varieties of bread, pasta and rice.
  • For snacks try fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, unsalted nuts or seeds.
  • Aim for 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
  • Look for labels on food products stating “source of fibre” (contains at least 3g of fibre per 100g) or “high in fibre” (contains at least 6g of fibre per 100g). These claims are regulated by the European Food Safety Authority so they are genuine and can be trusted.

If one of your goals is to increase your fibre intake, make sure to build it up slowly and steadily. Suddenly introducing a lot of fibre in your diet can lead to bloating and discomfort, so it is important to give your gut time to adjust. Drinking plenty of water can help the fibre to work effectively.

If you would be interested in further nutrition support and guidance, why not give us a call? Our team can help support you to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. Call us on 020 3434 2500 or sign up here.

Quiz Questions

What is the recommended daily fibre intake for an adult in the UK? 10g ☐, 20g ☐, 30g ☒, 40g ☐

What are the two main types of fibre? Soluble ☒, insoluble ☒, fructose ☐, glucose ☐

Which of the following are NOT sources of fibre? Oats ☐, beans ☐, steak ☒, nuts ☐, milk ☒

References

British Nutrition Foundation (2018). Dietary Fibre. British Nutrition Foundation. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html [Accessed 17th September 2020].

NHS (2018). How to get more fibre into your diet. NHS. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/ [Accessed 17th September 2020].

Rhitrition (2020). Why we all need fibre in our diet. Rhitrition. Available from: https://rhitrition.com/why-we-all-need-fibre-in-our-diets/ [Accessed 16th September 2020].

Saunt, R. and West, H. (2019). Is Butter a Carb? Great Britain: Piatkus.

The Food Medic (2020). Forgotten Fibre. The Food Medic. Available from: https://thefoodmedic.co.uk/2020/02/forgotten-fibre/ [Accessed 16th September 2020].

British Heart Foundation (2020). Are you eating enough fibre? British Heart Foundation. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/fibre [Accessed 17th September 2020].

British Dietetic Association (2020). Fibre: Food Fact Sheet. British Dietetic Association. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fibre.html [Accessed 17th September 2020].

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