Fibre in our diet
So what is fibre?
Fibre is what is commonly known as `roughage’. Over time the definition of fibre has changed and it is so much more than that. However what is important to remember is that that fibre is a carbohydrate and can only be obtained from plant sources for instance – fruit and vegetables, grains and beans. There are three main types of fibre, mainly soluble and insoluble and resistant starch.
In order to ensure that an adequate amount of all three types of fibre are being consumed, a varied and healthy diet should be eaten. Research has shown that fibre may have many possible benefits ranging from preventing constipation to preventing certain cancers. What is maybe unclear is what fibre has what benefits, so a diet rich in fibre is beneficial. Research has shown that resistant starch has many health benefits.
Eating a fibre rich diet will help to encourage eating less energy dense foods, such as highly refined carbohydrates (cakes and biscuits), and aid towards a generally healthier lifestyle.
So how much fibre should be eating in our diet?
At present the guideline is 18g a day , the general average consumption is around 12g a day in the UK,
So what are the different types of fibre?
Dietary fibre includes starches and cellulose as well as prebiotics and resistant starch.
Starches and cellulose are found in plant walls and make up what is understood as soluble and insoluble fibre.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth or activity of bacteria in the digestive system. Prebiotics may be found in foods such raw bananas.
Resistant starch is able to avoid digestion and is found in the large intestine where it is able to act like other dietary fibre. It may be found in:
- wholegrain cereals and nuts
- Some breakfast cereals and rice and pasta
- Legumes – Beans, lentils
- Cooked cold rice eg sushi or cold pasta salad
So why should fibre be eaten – what are the benefits?
Over the last 50 years, the main benefits of fibre in the diet has been to prevent constipation, lower cholesterol and increase feelings of being full after eating (satiety)
More recently fibre in the diet has been seen to have quite a few health benefits – particularly associated with disease such as coronary hear disease, digestive health, and cancer. Some of the benefits that have been noted are:
The ability to lower cholesterol
A reduced risk of some cancers
The world cancer research fund published findings that there is highly probable evidence that having a diet which is high in fibre decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.
Try and eat a varied diet incorporating 5 – 7 fruit and vegetables a day, Eat a variety of fibre rich foods for instance, wholegrain breads, brown rice and pasta. Incorporate resistant starch into your diet – eat pasta or potato salads (homemade with little mayonnaise)! Eat more pulses and beans – eg lentils