Food & Drink Muse

Why Fibre Will Leave You Feeling Fabulous

Alice Weetman discusses some of the negative impacts of low-carb diets in light of new research on dietary fibre

Thinking of cutting the carbs this January? Think again. After 50 years of research on dietary fibre, and analysis of 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results are in. Fibre is a lifesaver, and it goes hand in hand with carbohydrate consumption. This week, a landmark study commissioned by the World Health Organisation, was published presenting fibre as a super food, which now has been found to have a highly productive effect in fighting long-term illness.

Why is fibre so important?

Fibre affects the way fat is absorbed into the small intestine, and it is the main food source for the bacteria living in the large intestine. The bacterium ferments the fibre to make an abundance of different chemicals that are then put to use throughout the
body.

What’s new?
It’s a well known fact that fibre aids digestion, but the study conducted over the last 50 years, now published in the Lancet Medical Journal, has found that fibre does so much more in the long run. After studying participants for two decades, scientists found that a diet with higher fibre levels leads to lower blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels. Not only that, but it naturally reduces the risk of strokes , type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. It’s clear from the findings that wholegrain and fibre is an important factor in long-term health, and when talking to the BBC, Professor John Cummings, (a researcher in the study), stated the results are “a game changer” and that “people have to start doing something about it”. Professor Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, commented: “We need to take serious note of this study” and that when it comes to fibre intake it’s a case of “quality (…) very much, over and above, the debate on quantity”

Photo Credit: Pixabay









So how much fibre do we need?

The minimum recommended daily intake of fibre is 25 to 30g for an adult, yet in the UK fewer than one in ten adults actually meet this; women getting on average 17g a day and men 21g. Globally, most of the population eats less than 20g of fibre daily.

Why aren’t we getting enough fibre in our diets?
One of the main concerns of scientists conducting the study was the popular trend of the low-carb diet. Diets such as Atkins, Keto and Paleo, that cut out or heavily restrict carbohydrate intake, with the goal of burning fat, have seeped into mainstream culture and the media now more than ever. The demonising of carbs in these popular diets, have led us to a belief that all carbohydrates are “bad”. In reality, there are no good or bad carbs, all are good in moderation, but some are more beneficial than others. These beneficial carbs are the fibrous kind, such as whole-wheat bread, beans, pulses and veg. Although it’s not impossible to get
fibre in these diets. Leafy greens and a variety of fruit are recommended with these diets, and such foods tend to contain only small amounts and so ought to be eaten along with other sources. Carbohydrates, such as oats and whole-wheat pasta give your diet variety and a boost of the all important fibre. 

What does 30g of fibre
look like?

To achieve the 30g recommended, in a day, you’d have to eat something like:
2 Slices of Wholewheat bread: 4g
A medium sized carrot: 1.5g
A medium sized potato (skin on): 4g
A pear: 5g
A banana: 3g
An orange: 3g
A cup of cooked lentils: 4g


It does look like a lot, however there are plenty of simple ways to add a little more fibre to your diet. Snacking on small portions of nuts, (almonds and pistachios especially), upping your fruit and veg intake, sprinkling some chia seeds over your cereal or popping some in a smoothie are all small steps to nail getting your 30g a day (and add some texture and flavour to your dishes). If you’re looking to add more fibre into your diet and want some advice, there are plenty of useful resources online, especially
on the NHS’ Eat Well’ page.

For more information on the WHO research, check out the Lancet Medical Journal.

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