Fibre helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Foods rich in fibre also contain powerful protective agents, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals. High fibre diets can also help in weight control as it keeps your bowels moving, helps you feel full and reduces the urge to snack. More importantly, fibre reduces the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. Most of us aren’t achieving the suggested daily targets.
There are two types of Fibre:
- Soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fibre include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
- Insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibres include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
For men the goal is 38 g of fibre per day, for women it’s 28g of fibre per day.
Some great tips for increasing fibre
- Eat plenty of Fruit, vegetables and whole grain with plenty of water daily.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
- Add frozen berries and flaxseed to your morning yoghurt or oatmeal.
- High-fibre breakfast options include porridge or muesli. Increase the fibre further by adding oatbran or wheatgerm, nuts, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) and fresh fruit. If you eat a boxed cereal, choose one that has a whole grain as its first ingredient.
- Don’t peel your fruit and vegetables, a lot of the fibre is in the skin.
- Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
- Use wholemeal flour when you bake.
- Read nutrition labels and choose foods with the highest dietary-fibre numbers.
- Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
- Be careful of snacking on nuts for fibre as they can contain lots of calories.
- Eat a salad with every meal
- Forget “five-a-day”; many nutrition experts suggest aiming much higher. Aim for making vegetables—preferably fibre-rich types like greens and broccoli— a part of every meal and snack. Replace refined carbohydrates such as rice and pasta with half a plate of green leafy vegetables instead.
- Become a frequent eater of beans, lentils and split peas. They’re filling, fibre-rich and cheap—and, if canned, convenient (just rinse them in a colander before using, to wash away excess sodium). Substitute beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week
- Try adding chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils to soups, curries and casseroles.
- For constipation, the fibre in wheat bran and oat bran is considered more effective than fibre from fruits and vegetables.
Aim for a Gradual increase in Fibre
Experts recommend increasing fibre intake gradually rather than suddenly. Increasing fibre in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Adding too much fibre too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky, so increase your water intake along with your fibre.
Research on Fibre and Disease/ Health
A 2011 study showed that a high intake of dietary fibre, in particular cereal fibre and whole grains, was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (1).
A 2016 review of over 45 previous studies provided further evidence that whole grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and total cancer, and mortality from all causes, respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes. These findings support dietary guidelines that recommend increased intake of whole grain to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality (2).
A Harvard university study showed that each additional 10 grams of daily fibre (ie two apples, or one apple and a two slices of whole-wheat bread) was associated with a 13 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer. The breast cancer study tracked 90,000 US women for more than two decades and found fibre from fruit and vegetables appeared to have the strongest protective effect. Scientists believe that fibre may protect against breast cancer by blocking the absorption of oestrogen, which is closely linked to the disease.
1. http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/343/bmj.d6617.full.pdf 2. http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/353/bmj.i2716.full.pdf
High Fibre Foods