Dietary fibre is one of those things that we know we need, but we aren’t completely sure why. Associated with the dreaded ‘carb’, fibre is increasingly being side-lined in the UK’s diet as we are now averaging only 14g of the stuff a day. Worryingly this is less than half of the daily recommended amount of 30g.
So why are we eating so little fibre? You can probably thank the Atkins diet for that. Simply uttering the word ‘carbohydrate’ in the early 2000s seemed to spread fear across the nation and because fibre is closely linked with carbs, it gets tarred with the same brush of ‘fattening’.
Contrary to popular belief fibre is actually a welcome ally in the fight against weight gain through the magic of satiety. Broadly speaking, it makes you feel fuller for longer, but without adding as many calories!
Fibre is essential for the digestion system, absorbing excess water as it passes through; increasing the bulk of your waste. Getting enough fibre reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (particularly bowel cancer), as well as helping control your weight and ensuring you stay, ahem, regular.
There are two different types of fibre; soluble and insoluble. The latter moves through the body without being broken down, ensuring the smooth running of your digestive system. Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
For those with gluten or wheat intolerance, their diet can naturally be low in fibre and whole grains due to the removal of the cereals wheat, rye and barley, however, there are plenty of alternatives out there in fruit, nuts and vegetables.
So, which foods contain this wonder fibre and how best to get it back into your diet? Dietary fibre is only found in plant-based foods like vegetables, nuts, fruit and grains. Mushrooms, sweet potato, beans and raspberries all contain high levels of fibre and are easy to add to your existing favourite dishes.
There are a few guidelines you can follow to increase your fibre intake, gradually (to avoid bloating and painful cramps).
Are you a fibre hero? Have you had any positive health improvements since increasing your fibre intake? Let us know in the comments!