Including enough fibre in our diets is essential for healthy bowel function. Some studies have also found that getting the recommended amount can reduce the risks of certain health issues such as cancers, coronary heart disease and obesity.
Experts recommend we have at least 30g of fibre a day. Foods that contain 6g fibre or more per 100g are considered to be high fibre foods, while those containing at least 3g of fibre or more per 100g are considered to be a source of fibre.
A fibre-rich diet can help to prevent constipation (see below), diverticulosis, bowel cancer and haemorrhoids. In conjunction with increasing your fibre intake, be sure to keep fluid levels up to0. Dietary fibre can also help obesity by slowing down digestion (keeping us fuller for longer) and helping the release of glucose and insulin. Soluble fibres have been shown to help normalise serum cholesterol levels by binding directly to cholesterol, decreasing the chance of re-absorption and promoting excretion.
A note on constipation
People are constipated when they strain to have a bowel movement, have hard stools, infrequent or incomplete bowel movements or discomfort. Some people feel fatigue, aches and mental sluggishness from constipation. Eating low-fibre, packaged or pre-prepared foods, certain medications and a lack of mobility can all contribute to constipation.
It is normal to have one to three soft bowel movements each day. Optimal bowel transit time is twelve to twenty four hours. Slow bowel transit time raises the risk of colon disease and contributes to other health problems.
Soluble and insoluble fibre
Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and increases water content in the intestine to give a softer texture to the stool. It is made up of gums and other constituents of plant cells and plant cell walls that swell in water. Soluble fibre promotes the excretion of cholesterol and can be helpful for those suffering from haemorrhoids.
Insoluble fibre was traditionally known as roughage, and consists mainly of cellulose which absorbs water but passes through the bowel almost undigested. Foods rich in insoluble fibre fill you up and are effective at increasing stool size and bulk thus promoting regular bowel movements.
It’s recommended that we eat both soluble and insoluble fibre every day.
|Fruit including pears and apples||Corn|
Putting it into practice
How to get more fibre in your daily diet:
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day BDA Food Facts – How to get 5 a day
- Make wholegrains the rule and processed grains the exception
- Start the day with a high-fibre breakfast cereal (bran, oats or wholegrain) topped with dried or fresh fruit
- Choose wholemeal, wholegrain, granary or multi-seed bread
- Add legumes such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas on a daily basis to salads, stews and casseroles
- Increase the amount of fibre in your diet slowly. A quick change from a low-fibre to a high-fibre diet can cause gas, cramps and bloating.
For more information see the BDA Food Fact Sheet – Fibre