We are often told that eating a diet high in fibre will help to keep our digestive system healthy and protect us from some illnesses, including cancer. But how much is enough and how can we add more to our diet?
Studies have found that eating foods that contain fibre can lower our risk of bowel cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK. Fibre-rich foods also help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, which can help you to maintain a healthy heart.
Fibre is an important part of our diet and is found in a variety of plant foods. It is best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals (such as wholegrain bread and brown rice). Pulses (such as beans and lentils) are also fibre-rich and can count as one portion per day towards your 5 A DAY.
For optimal cancer and disease prevention, adults should aim to eat 18 grams of fibre a day. However, most people in Britain don’t reach this target; diet surveys indicate that eight out of 10 of us are not getting enough fibre, which is only found in plant foods. One of the best ways to increase your fibre intake is to eat your 5 A DAY portions of fruits and vegetables.
Fibre content of common foods
Apple – 2g fibre
Baked potato (with skin) – 4.9g fibre
Broccoli – 2g fibre per portion
Red lentils – 3g fibre per portion
Wholewheat bread – 1.8g fibre per slice
Wholewheat pasta – 6.3g fibre per portion
7 ways to eat more fibre
1. Add chopped fresh or dried fruit to your breakfast cereal.
2. Try porridge with low-fat milk and fruit for an alternative breakfast.
3. Replace white pasta and rice with wholegrain varieties and switch white bread for multi-seeded wholegrain bread.
4. Keep the skin on fruit and vegetables whenever possible.
5. Pack your sandwiches with salad and vegetables.
6. Include more pulses, such as beans and lentils, in your diet – you could add them to stews, soups, casseroles and pasta sauces.
7. Liven up the variety of cereals you cook with. Why not try cous cous, bulgar wheat or pearl barley next time you are cooking?