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Having gotten used to be told we’re eating too much of everything, we’re now being told we’re NOT EATING ENOUGH FIBRE!

Earlier this month (January 2019), the Lancet published a study that concluded that:

“People who eat higher levels of dietary fibre and wholegrains have lower rates of non-communicable disease”

(Translate as reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer)

How much fibre do I need?

30g a day.  Brace yourself for a telling off – only 9% of UK adults get the recommended amount.

So 91% of us DON’T. Tut-tut.

I’m in.  What should I eat?

You may have heard this health story on the news last week.  The coverage I heard led with the advice to eat more wholegrain breads and cereals.

NOOOOO! It is highly unlikely that there is any reason why you would need to INCREASE your bread and cereal intake.  Substitute the white breads and cereals you currently eat for wholegrain varieties, but do not increase intake.

Know your food labels..

High fibre is defined as greater than or equal to 6g of fibre in 100g of product. The table below shows a range of high fibre foods. Tuck in.

 g fibre / 100g
Chia seeds34.4
Flaxseeds27.3
Pumpkin Seeds18.4
Coconut16.3
Sesame seeds14
Almonds (with skins)12.5
High fibre cereal (average)11
Pine nuts10.7
Pistachios10.6
Hazelnuts9.7
Pecans9.6
Sunflower seeds8.6
Peanuts (with skins)8.4
Oats8.3
Kidney beans7.8
Brazil nuts7.5
Wholemeal bread (average)6.8
Avocado6.7
Chickpeas6.1

See? Not just bread!

Obviously, portion size matters

We don’t eat food in 100g portions. So to give this some perspective:

  • The average slice of high fibre bread contains no more than 3g of fibre per slice.
  • 15g (1 tablespoon) of chia seeds will get you approximately 6g of fibre.
  • Half a tin of chickpeas gets you 7g of fibre.

So without getting bogged down with mathematics , you can see that fibre can be increased more efficiently with foods that are higher in fibre than wholemeal / wholegrain bread. Not to mention increasing variety in your diet, and therefore nutrients…

Don’t forget about fruit and vegetables…

While most fruit and vegetables may have less than 6g of fibre per 100g, quantity matters. Anyone heard the “5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day” message? This could clock up around 15-20g of fibre a day.

However…

The latest Health Survey in NI reports a reduction in fruit and vegetable intake. The “5-a-day” message is well rehearsed, but the number of people who manage to include 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day has gone from 43% in 2016/2017, to 38% in 2017/2018. Oh dear. Tut-tut, again.

So plenty of room for improvement, but not for everyone…

Not everyone will be able to tolerate 30g of fibre a day.  This is intended as general information only. Get individual advice if you have any doubts about what is right for you.

The days of being ‘entertained’ by Gillian McKeith collecting poo in tupperware may be over but, like it or not, she had a point! Not the ‘putting it in a tupperware’ bit, but the ‘getting familiar with it’ bit!

Some of us have a chance to get acquainted with our waste matter daily, and it’s a comfortable and reliable relationship. For others, it can get prickly and punctuated with strain or pain. Who has time for constipation these days? Move proceedings along with fibre.  Therapy for your bowel.

Not for everyone

High fibre may not be advisable if you have IBS or other medical condition that has reduced fibre as part of the treatment plan – speak to your GP or dietitian if you are unsure if you should increase or decrease your fibre intake.

How much do I need?

The recommended fibre intake for adults is 30g per day (this must be alongside a good fluid intake). Current UK national average fibre intake is 15-21g per day so eat up!

Where can I find fibre?

20 High Fibre Foods

This is NOT a complete list of high fibre foods. All fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrain products will contain useful amounts of fibre.
Fibre SourceFibre (g) per 100g
Linseed / Flaxseed (ground)41.2
Chia seeds37.5
Linseed / Flaxseed (whole)28
Legume pastas (varies)23
All Bran15
Branflakes14.7
Shredded Wheat10.1
Oats9.8
Pumpkin8.3
Muesli / Granola (varies)8
Sesame seeds7.9
Prunes7.1
Raspberries6.5
Peanuts6.3
Yellow split peas5.9
Wholemeal bread5.8
Sunflower seeds5.7
Almonds5.6
Kidney beans5.5
Brazil nuts5.4

There is probably no need to count grams of fibre – if you are eating enough fruit and vegetables, choosing wholemeal / wholegrain versions of breads, cereals, rice and pasta, enjoy eating nuts, seeds and pulses, then you are likely getting enough fibre – but ultimately, your bowel movements will be your best indicator.

(For reference, a food can be considered high fibre if it contains 6g (or more) of fibre per 100g. You will find this information on food labels).

And by the way…

The benefits of fibre do not end with keeping you “regular”. Fibre is also important for control of:

  • Cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood glucose
  • Colorectal cancer risk
  • Weight

So why wouldn’t you eat more?

Final word

In honour of World Digestive Health Day 2018, resolve to improve your relationship with your bowels, keep them happy with more fibre if necessary, and get familiar with your ‘output’.

But don’t put it in a tupperware.

Going too far.