Secrets to getting more fibre into your diet to stop constipation
So why do we need fibre?
Fibre is an important component of a healthy balanced diet.
We get fibre from plant-based foods, but it’s not something the body can absorb.
This means fibre is not a nutrient and contains no calories or vitamins.
Fibre helps your digestive system to process food and absorb nutrients. Fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol. Fibre makes you feel fuller and so helps to control your appetite.
Are all types of fibre the same?
No! There are two types of fibre: insoluble and soluble.
It helps your bowel to pass food by making stools soft and bulky.
This type of fibre helps prevent constipation.
Insoluble fibre is found in the following foods:
- Brown rice
- Fruits with edible seeds
- Wheat bran
- Wholegrain breads
- Wholegrain cereals
- Wholemeal breads
- Wholemeal cereals
- Wholemeal pasta
- Wholewheat flour
This type of fibre lowers cholesterol levels and controls blood sugar.
It can be found in all fruit and vegetables, but the following are rich sources:
How much do I need?
Current advice says adults should aim for 18g fibre a day. Most of us eat less than this, and the British Nutrition Foundation puts the average adult intake at 14g.
How much fibre do foods contain?
Breakfast cereals are our most usual source of dietary fibre. Below are some examples of other foods, so you can compare fibre content. You can also check nutrition labels to find out how much fibre something contains.
The British foundation has issued the following guidelines for labelling food.
- High Fibre should contain 6g fibre per 100g or ml.
- A source of fibre should contain 3g fibre per 100g or ml.
- One portion penne pasta (90g dry weight): 2.3g fibre.
- One portion wholewheat pasta (90g dry weight): 9g fibre.
- One bowl Healthwise Bran flakes (30g): 4.5g fibre.
- One bowl fruit and fibre cereal (30g): 2.7g fibre.
- One slice (28g) white bread: 0.8g fibre.
- One slice (28g) wholemeal bread: 1.9g fibre.
- One portion (80g) lentils: 1.5g fibre.
- One orange (160g): 2.7g fibre.
- 80g boiled cabbage: 1.7g fibre.
How do I increase dietary fibre?
Because fibre is central to your bowel health, be careful about suddenly increasing your intake and overburdening your digestive system.
You should only aim for a 5g increase over a three to five day period, and drink plenty of water for it to be effective.
Make sure you get both forms of fibre in your diet.
Tips for healthy living
- Start the day with a high-fibre cereal or try this recipe for muesli. Mix oats, bran flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, and assorted chopped dried fruits.
- For something a little crunchier, toss the oats, seeds and bran lightly in oil, add honey and bake at 150C for 45 minutes. Add the dried fruit and nuts last.
- Add lentils, pearl barley, brown rice or cracked wheat to casseroles and soups.
- Finish a meal off with an orange or have a citrus fruit as a mid-morning snack.
- Replace white bread with wholegrain and seed loaves, they have the highest fibre and nutrient content.
- Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. They are cheap, easy to prepare and delicious when eaten with a fresh sliced banana and maple syrup.
This article was kindly supplied by Caroline Ward, owner of Love My Fitness based in Kent.
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