An article in the Lancet Medical Journal1 shows that as well as keeping your blood and cholesterol levels down, fibre reduces the chances of heart attacks, strokes and diseases such as type-2 diabetes. Here, nutritionist Rob Hobson explains what this life-saving nutrient is, and how you can get enough of it from your diet.
What foods contain fibre, and what is insoluble fibre and soluble fibre?
There are two types of dietary fibre - insoluble and soluble. Don’t worry too much about these terms, though, as most high-in-fibre foods contain both. Insoluble fibre is what used to be called ‘roughage’. Foods high in insoluble fibre include wheat bran, dried fruit, corn, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, nuts and seeds. It passes through the gut without being broken down, which helps keep our digestive system working properly and our bowel movements regular.
Soluble fibre, so called because it absorbs water, is a gluey substance found in foods such as oats, barley, rye, beans, lentil, bananas, pears, apple, carrots, potatoes and golden linseeds. It helps hydrate our intestines and keeps stools soft.
What can fibre help?
Dietary fibre plays a key role in a healthy digestive system, which is the bedrock of good health. Its benefits don’t stop there, however. Fibre is also known to help reduce cholesterol, as well as the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease, and diabetes and bowel cancer. Fibre can also help weight loss by bulking out the diet and promoting satiety – the feeling of fullness - between meals. And, according to a study in The American Journal of Epidemiology, a high dietary fibre intake is linked to a lower risk of death from any cause.2 The study also showed a 10% reduced risk of dying for every 10g increase in fibre intake per day.
How much fibre per day should we eat?
The current UK recommended intake for fibre is 30g per day, but the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) of the UK population shows that, on average, women consume about 17g, and men about 21g a day. Teenagers have the lowest intake at only 15g of fibre per day. Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand now say there are health benefits for pushing past the 30g mark, too.3
Fibre could improve your gut health
Certain fibres like inulin help the bacteria in your gut to flourish. For example, foods rich in compounds called lignins and oligosaccharides (found in bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic and oats) act as prebiotics in the gut, which 'feed' your gut bacteria and help them function normally.
Easy food swaps to up your fibre intake
White bread, pasta rice, breakfast cereals
Mayonnaise and condiments
Humus and other bean-based dips
Bars or bounce balls made from dried fruit, nuts and seeds
Five foods high in fibre
- All fresh fruit and veg
- Canned beans, pulses and lentils
- Dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Wholegrains, corn and pseudo-grains (quinoa, amaranth)
Top fibre supplements
Easyfibre® Cleanse is a gentle dietary fibre made of 100% natural psyllium husks from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant, also known as blond psyllium. It helps you keep your fibre intake up, and so maintain a smooth digestive function. Easyfibre Inulin is ideal for those that want to keep regular and stimulate the growth of their beneficial gut bacteria. Both are great options if you'd like to bump your fibre intake up to 30g or more per day.
1Reynolds, A., Mann, J., Cummings, J., Winter, N., Mete, E. and Te Morenga, L. (2019). Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, The Lancet
2Kim, Youngyo & Je, Youjin. (2014). Dietary Fiber Intake and Total Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies, American Journal of Epidemiology
3University of Otago (2019). High intake of dietary fibre and whole grain foods reduces risk of non-communicable diseases