Why is fibre so important?
Fibre February is an industry led initiative to get us eating more fibre. As a nation we are really struggling with getting enough fibre, with only 4% of 11–16-year olds and 9% of 19–64-year-olds meeting the recommended intakes for fibre. So that leads the question, why is fibre so important and how can we increase our intake?
What is fibre?
Fibre is a carbohydrate, but unlike other forms of carbohydrates, fibre is not digested in the small intestine. Instead, it carries on through the digestive tract into the large intestine, helping to regulate the body’s use of sugars, keeping hunger and blood sugar in check.
Where is fibre found?
It’s no surprise that fibre is found in plant-based foods, such as wholegrains, beans, nuts, fruit and vegetables, with each containing different types of fibre. Evidence has shown that eating different types of fibre is associated with the best health outcomes.
Why should we eat fibre?
It feeds our gut microbes
In our large intestine we have billions of gut microbes, these are very important for many functions including supporting the immune system. Fibre essentially provides food for these gut microbes.
Bulks out our stools
Fibre helps to regulate our bowls as bulker stools, encouraging peristalsis (movement of the bowls) and helps prevent constipation.
Binds to other compounds
Fibre can bind to other compounds, which then get removed in our stools, such as cholesterol, thus helping reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
Reduces chronic disease and cancers
Many studies have shown whole-grains reduce the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.
How much fibre do we need to eat?
The Government has set out fibre recommendations for different age groups. These are shown below.
- Age 2-5: 15g per day
- Age 5-11: 20g per day
- Age 11-16: 25g per day
- Age 17 and over: 30g per day
So, what does that look like in food terms? The following would provide 30g fibre:
- 2 portions fruit,
- 5 portions vegetables,
- 3 portions whole-grains
- 1 portion nuts and seeds
This may initially seem a lot, but if we break it down to see how you may achieve it over a typical day, a portion of veg, fruit and wholegrains is about the palm of your hand (about a handful), and a portion of nuts and seeds is about half the palm of you hand (a small handful).
Example day to get enough fibre:
- Breakfast – Granola with seeds and nuts (1 wholegrain + 1 nuts and seed)
- Mid-morning snack – banana (1 fruit)
- Lunch – Hummus sandwich – 2 slices granary bread with vegetable sticks – carrots/ cucumber and peppers (3 portions vegetables + 2 portions whole-grains)
- Evening meal – Salmon with potatoes and broccoli and carrots (2 vegetables)
- Late-evening snack – Blueberries with yoghurt (1 fruit)
Quick ways to increase fibre
- Making muffins – switch 1/3rd of flour for oats
- Add cooked barley or legumes to soup to increase the fibre (as well as protein), which also adds flavour and texture
- Making a bolognese sauce – switch out half the meat for beans or lentils, boosting the fibre but will also reduce the cost of the dish
- Don’t peel fruit and vegetables – saves times but will also increase the fibre as mostly found in the skins
- Sprinkle seeds or granola over yoghurt for a crunchy high fibre dessert
- Frozen vegetables are a great quick option to add to meals
- Choose granary bread over white bread
Tips when increasing fibre
- Increase fibre slowly, too much all of a sudden can cause bloating, add in 1 extra portion a day.
- Drink lots of water, fibre needs water so by drinking an extra glass it will help work its magic!
- Choose foods you like and that are practical, so the changes are enjoyable, you can keep going with it.
If you need any further advice or support, please get in touch.
For more information on nutrition & health, read this blog: