Dietary fibre… something that helps digestion, right? Maybe in cereal?
There are so many packages stating that the products are ‘high in fibre’, but what does this even mean for our health? Is there a set amount of it you are meant to have per day? And what foods can you eat which include fibre?
Well don’t worry my darlings, all will be explained:
WHAT IS DIETARY FIBRE??
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate of which, when eaten in high consumption, has a multitude of health benefits. It has been proven to reduce the amount of fat in the blood and therefore reduce risk of heart disease. It can also help regulate body weight, increase the immune systems function, and prevent irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. On top of this, it also lowers risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. So it’s god damn important!!
The science – fibre is a plant component that resists digestion in the small intestine, so moving into the large intestine where it undergoes fermentation. This fermentation process is important as it provides energy in the form of sugars (monosaccharides). Overall, this digestive process maximises the time to absorb nutrients from other foods eaten by moving slowly through the small intestine in a thick and viscous consistency.
HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BE HAVING??
The government recommends, on average, 30g of fibre per day as part of a healthy diet. Most adults only consume 18g – so much lower than the expected amount. But, what does 30 grams of fibre actually look like? Most of us don’t weigh our food so how are we meant to know that we are getting our 30g in…
FOODS AND THEIR FIBRE CONTENT…
ANYTHING WHOLEMEAL – wholemeal and granary bread (2.5g per slice), cereals like wholewheat biscuits (1.9g per biscuit) and shredded wheat (3.7g per bowl), wholegrain pasta (9.2g per bowl), brown rice (2.7g per portion), bulgar wheat (you can probably get it from M&S or Waitrose?).
Porridge (1.5g per bowl).
Potatoes with the skin on (2.5g per jacket potato) (most of the nutrients of a potato, and any root veg really, are in the skin).
Pulses – beans (6.5g per two tablespoons of broad), lentils (1g per portion) and chickpeas (3.7g per 3 tablespoons). So stock up on the houmous…
VEG AND FRUIT – peas (2.8g per serving), broccoli (2g per serving), brussels (2.8g per serving), avocado (5g per serving) are all high fibre vegetables and raspberries (1.5g per 15), blackberries (2.3g per 15) and pears (2.4g per pear) have high amounts of fibre for fruits – please note that these are just vegetables and fruits that have the highest amounts of fibre, all fruits and vegetables contain some fibre so are important to include.
ADDING MORE FIBRE TO OUR DIETS….
SO, knowing all these foods and the amount of fibre is in them in grams may not mean anything to you – so if you want a slightly simpler way of knowing that you are having your 30g of fibre per day there is an easier way of doing it:
It can be recommended that, with your 5-A-DAY, you should be having 3 portions of the following foods per day (that is 3 portions overall, not three portions of each food):
- One slice of wholemeal bread
- 1/2 a wholemeal pitta
- 2 tablespoons of brown rice
- 3 tablespoons of wholegrain breakfast cereal
- 2 oatcakes
- 1 tablespoon of uncooked porridge oats
Hopefully this has cleared up some of the confusion over WTF is DF and how it works in the body. Keep posted for some easy high-fibre recipes to help with hitting that 30g a day target!!
For more information (and to show all my writing is evidence-based), here is a reference list:
Anderson, J. et al. (2009) ‘Health benefits of dietary fibre’, Nutrition Reviews, 67(4), pp. 188-205.
Cummings, J. and Mann, J. (2012) ‘Carbohydrates’, in Mann, J. and Truswell, A. (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-49.
Ljubicic, M. et al. (2017) ‘Knowledge about dietary fibre and its health benefits: A cross-sectional survey of 2536 residents from across Croatia’, Medical Hypotheses, 105(1), pp. 25-31.
NHS Choices (2015) How to get more fibre into your diet. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet.aspx (Accessed: 3 November 2017).