FIBRE is one of the most important elements of our diets – but do you know why?
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how much fibre you should be consuming daily and how it helps your body function properly.
What is fibre?
Dietary fibre – also known as roughage – is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely digested by the human body.
It is made up of cellulose, lignin and pectin, all of which are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes.
As it is not digested in the small intestine along with the rest of our food, it moves along to the large intestine and colon as waste product.
Fibre helps to keep the digestive system healthy and helps prevent constipation.
It bulks up stools making them softer and easier to pass through the bowel.
Eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
How much fibre should you consume in a day?
Government guidelines published in July 2015 say our dietary fibre intake should increase to 30g a day, as part of a healthy balanced diet.
However, most adults are only eating an average of about 18g day.
Children under the age of 16 don’t need as much fibre in their diet as older teenagers and adults, but they still need more than they get currently.
Here’s a breakdown of their needs:
- 2 to 5 year-olds need about 15g of fibre a day
- 5 to 11 year-olds need about 20g
- 11 to 16 year-olds need about 25g
On average, children and teenagers are only getting around 15g or less of fibre a day.
According to the NHS, kids should be encouraged to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as starchy foods (choosing wholegrain versions and potatoes with the skins on where possible) to ensure they are eating enough fibre.
Which foods are high in fibre?
It is very important to get your fibre from a variety of food sources, as eating too much of one type of food may not provide you with a healthy balanced diet.
Fibre rich foods include:
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye
- Fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges
- Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn
- Peas, beans and pulses
- Nuts and seeds
- Potatoes with skin
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Here are some ideas on how to increase your fibre intake at each meal.
- Choose a high fibre breakfast cereal e.g. wholegrain cereal like wholewheat biscuit cereal, no added sugar muesli, bran flakes or porridge Add some fresh fruit, dried fruit, seeds and/or nuts.
- Opt for wholemeal or seeded wholegrain breads. For fussy eaters, try versions that combine white and wholemeal flours
- Choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice as your starch
- Go for potatoes with skins on like baked potatoes, wedges or boiled new potatoes For snacks try fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, unsalted nuts or seeds
- Include plenty of vegetables with meals – either as a side dish/salad or added to sauces, stews or curries
- Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
- Have some fresh or fruit canned in natural juice for dessert or a snack
Also remember that increasing your fibre intakes means you should increase your fluid intake to maintain good gut health.