Fibre is an essential part of a balanced diet, and increasing your daily intake to the new government recommended amount of 30g per day need not be difficult. There are many sources of fibre and associated health benefits, all of which consist of plant-based foods. These fibre sources often double-up as excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, so the benefits of introducing more into your diet are diverse.
The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre
1. Can help prevent Coronary Heart Disease by reducing the amount of cholesterol in the blood. The best form of fibre for this purpose is known as soluble fibre, so-called because it is dissolved by the water of the digestive system and is subsequently absorbed into the blood. Sources of soluble fibre include fruits and root vegetables, oats, and golden linseed.
2. Can help to reduce blood glucose levels. Soluble fibre, may help to slow digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates, therefore lowering the rise in blood glucose levels which takes place after eating a meal. This is particularly beneficial to people with diabetes, as it consequently reduces insulin levels.
3. Could help with weight management by helping you to feel fuller for longer and staving off hunger pangs. This can be achieved by including both soluble and insoluble fibre sources. Insoluble fibre is that which cannot be dissolved and absorbed into the blood stream, and therefore passes from the small intestine to the large intestine still intact.
4. Improves overall bowel health and could therefore reduce the chances of bowel diseases such as diverticular disease and haemorrhoids. There is some evidence to suggest that dietary fibre could also reduce the risks of bowel cancer to some extent.
The more obvious result of an increase in dietary fibre is its ability to keep you ‘regular.’ Not getting enough fibre in your diet can lead to constipation, and can make it more difficult for you to control your blood sugar levels and appetite.
The Healthiest Sources of Fibre
All fibre sources are plant-based, and consist of the edible parts of a plant which cannot be absorbed in the small intestine.
The best sources of fibre include:
- Beans and pulses, such as lentils, of all shapes and sizes
- Whole-grains and wholemeal – these have the added benefits of B-vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and trace minerals, and can lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
- Brown or wholegrain rice
- Potatoes with the skin (such as jacket potato)
- Nuts, also of all shapes and sizes including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and cashews. The added benefits of nuts include protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E, and they are known to help you feel fuller for longer.
- Fruit and vegetables. More specifically, the most fibre-filled vegetables are apples, pears, carrots, parsnips, onion, broccoli, sprouts, and citrus fruits.
The healthiest diets include as many varieties of fibre as possible. This allows you to access all of the possible health benefits, including the plethora of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which these foods contain.
More advice on good sources of fibre, and how to successfully increase your daily intake, can be found at www.nhs.co.uk.