Dietary fibre comes from the plants we eat and it is an essential part of a healthy diet. It is well known that eating fibre can prevent constipation, but did you know it can also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer? Most of us do not eat enough fibre and this may be putting our health at risk.
We have some tips below to help you increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
- Which foods are high in fibre?
Dietary fibre can only be found in foods that come from plants, such as wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, fruit, vegetables, beans, and lentils. Checking the labels on food products will show you how much fibre they contain. A product that is “high fibre” is one that has at least 6g of fibre per 100g. White bread, white pasta, white rice and non-wholegrain cereals are lower in fibre because the fibrous part of the plant (the bran) is removed during processing.
- Reasons to eat more fibre
Fibre contains the parts of plants that are not absorbed by the body. When you eat plant foods, the fibre passes through your stomach and intestines relatively intact. This adds bulk to your stools and makes them easier to pass. By increasing the amount of fibre you eat, you can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Fibre also helps to lower high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure to keep your heart healthy. Including plenty of fibre in your diet can also help you to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, which is important for good heart health.
Tips to increase your fibre intake
Obtaining fibre from a variety of food sources is a great way to ensure a healthy balanced diet. It is important to make sure you are drinking enough fluid as this will help the fibre to do its job.
- For snacks choose unsalted nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks or oatcakes.
- Opt for potatoes with their skins on, like jacket potato or boiled new potatoes.
- Aim to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Remember, frozen, dried and tinned fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 a day. Choose tinned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup, which is high in sugar.
- Add extra vegetables or pulses, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas to your favourite meals like curries, bolognese, chilli, soups and stews. You can also try adding linseeds to yoghurts, soups or juices.
- For breakfast why not choose a high-fibre cereal. Look out for cereals that are labelled as “whole grain” or with “bran” or “fibre” in their name. Try to choose plain varieties with no added sugars. You could also try porridge topped with some fruit.
- Instead of white bread, white rice and white pasta, try switching to wholemeal or granary bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
- Some people worry that if they increase their fibre intake it will cause them to suffer from flatulence (wind). To avoid this, you should gradually increase the amount of fibre in your diet to allow your body time to adjust.