We wanted to know if eating a high fibre diet improves your health and so turned to Sue Bedford, a leading nutritionist, to tell us more!

Dietary fibre is a term that is used for plant-based carbohydrates

Unlike other carbohydrates (such as sugars and starch), these are not digested in the small intestine and so reaches the large intestine or colon.

Eating a good amount of foods that contain fibre have been linked to benefitting our health and reducing certain diseases such as colon cancer, reducing cholesterol levels and stabilising blood sugar levels.

Fibre rich diets typically include two main forms of fibre – soluble and insoluble

These fibre-rich foods typically contain both types of fibre. Some scientific organisations argue that these terms are no longer really totally appropriate, however, you will see these terms being used often.

Soluble fibre (including pectins and beta glucans) dissolve in water to form a gel like substance. It can slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine. Examples include dried beans, oats, barley, bananas, potatoes, and soft parts of apples and pears.

Insoluble fibre (eg cellulose) often referred to as “roughage” because it does not dissolve in water. It holds onto water, which helps produce softer, bulkier stools to help regulate bowel movements. Examples include whole grain products, nuts, corn, whole bran, carrots, grapes, berries, and peels of apples and pears.

How much fibre is recommended daily?

30g per day (for age 17 and over)

What are the health benefits of consuming a high fibre diet?

  • Regulation of blood sugar levels: Consuming high fibre food slows down the digestion of food into the intestines, which can help to keep blood sugars from rising rapidly.
  • Weight control: A high fibre diet may help keep you fuller longer, which prevents overeating and hunger between meals.
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) and type 2 diabetes.
  • Helps prevent constipation –fibre bulks up stools which makes them softer and easier to pass.
  • Increasing ‘good’ gut bacteria – this is a fascinating area of nutrition and more research is emerging into the relationship between a fibre rich diet and an increase in the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. We will explore this area in much more depth in articles to come.
  • Prevention of bowel cancer: Insoluble fibre increases the bulk and speed of food moving through the intestinal tract, which reduces time for harmful substances to build up. Some types of fibre may also help gut bacteria produce helpful chemicals that can have beneficial effects on the bowel.

So what are the ways on how to increase dietary fibre into your diet`?

  • Add fibre slowly to your diet. Too much fibre all at once may cause cramping, bloating, and constipation.
  • Choose wholemeal or seeded wholegrain breads.
  • Choose cereals with at least 5 grams of dietary fibre per serving.
  • Choose raw fruits and vegetables in place of juice and eat the skins.
  • Use dried peas, beans, and legumes in main dishes, salads, or side dishes such as rice or pasta.
  • Keep a supply of frozen vegetables to hand.
  • Opt for a high fibre breakfast cereal e.g. wholegrain cereal like whole wheat biscuit cereal, no added sugar muesli, bran flakes or porridge. Add some fresh fruit, dried fruit, seeds and/or nuts.
  • Popcorn is a whole grain. Serve it low fat without butter for a healthier snack choice.
  • Choose wholegrains like whole wheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
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