August 18, 2019 9:42 am Leave your thoughts
How much fibre do we all need in our diets each day – to keep our digestive systems and bowels in good working order, to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and to keep us at a reasonable weight?
According to the World Health Organisation, adults need between 25g and 29g of fibre each day, for optimal health (they recommend aiming for 30g.) Children from 2 to 5 years need about 15g, rising to 20g for 5 to 11 year-olds and 25g for 11 to 16 year-olds. Currently, it’s estimated that adults manage an average of 18g and older children an average of 15g per day. How many of us are achieving 30g regularly? Only about 9%. Clearly, there’s work to be done!
Where’s it going wrong?
There’s some fibre in pretty much everything we eat – so how come so many of us are failing to reach our total? Part of the problem, it seems, is a general lack of fresh fruit and vegetables (some of the best sources of fibre). If you reach for a sweet instead of an apple, then you’re missing out on fibre. If – even as an adult – you tend to see eating vegetables as a punishment and avoid them, then again, you’re ignoring a vital fibrous element.
Another issue is a reliance on ‘beige’ food: many of us are eating too many heavily processed, white-flour-based goods. White flour has had the bran and germ (the outer casing) removed and thus contains very little fibre. Eating a day’s worth of white-flour-based pastries, pies, sandwiches, toast, biscuits, cakes, pasta, noodles, couscous and breaded fish and meat, brings us very little benefit in terms of fibre.
And eating like that isn’t exactly hard, in our country. There’s a wealth of convenience options out there, all terribly appealing in terms of taste and speed. Unfortunately, they’re not working well for us inside. To get more fibre, it’s clear that we’re going to have to make some different choices – and possibly do a little more work.
One final push
The good news is that while most of us aren’t getting enough fibre, we’re not all that far from reaching the target. In most cases, it wouldn’t take very many different choices – for some, simply a different type of snack per day – to push us over that finishing line.
Food that are particularly rich in fibre include wholegrain cereals, apples (2-3g of fibre each), nuts, wholegrain bread (around 2g of fibre per slice), wholewheat pasta (about 8g of fibre per portion), baked potatoes (if you eat the skin, around 4g of fibre), and various pulses (roughly 7g of fibre per helping). Grains such as bulgur wheat, brown rice, barley and rye are other great options.
A fibre-rich meal plan – and some imaginative swaps
The NHS has suggested a whole fibre-rich meal plan to deliver your 30g per day. It’s fairly basic. For breakfast, it suggests a fruit smoothie with banana-topped porridge; for lunch, a jacket potato with baked beans; for dinner, a vegetable curry with brown rice; for a snack, a handful of nuts. You can see the full details here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/. There’s no doubt that such a meal plan would work, but I’ve seen more appealing and imaginative options…
We’ve drawn up a table containing a few such imaginative ideas. Let’s do some swaps!
The NHS doesn’t list anything sweet on its diet plan. But we know that we’re going to end up eating puddings and sweet treats – and the good news is that these can be fibre-rich too. Many actually work best with high-fibre ingredients. Here are three good dessert options:
- Treacle tart with wholewheat flour: you need the chunky, wholesome nuttiness of the wholewheat pastry casing to balance the sweetness of the filling.
- Wholemeal apple cake: the heavier flour gives a perfect dense finish.
- School-dinner chocolate sponge and custard: you won’t even notice the wholemeal flour in this rich, chocolatey mound, but it really helps, giving a slight nuttiness and a density that’s just right for soaking up the accompanying chocolate custard!
One last prod?
If you eat a proper balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables, and base your meals around wholefood pulses and grains, then you’re easily going to make your fibre target. You won’t need to spend your time totting up grams, but can instead devote yourself to finding ever more imaginative and delicious ways to eat the right kind of food!
And it really, really matters. Failure to eat enough fibre is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, with strokes, with type 2 diabetes and with bowel cancer. Fibre is one of the most important elements of all of our diets – and we want to help everyone get enough.
See our Wholefoods section here, bursting with fibre-rich foods!
Tags: apricots, baked beans, Baobab Fruit Pulp Powder, barley, brown rice, bulgur wheat, cereals, chia seeds, dried fruit, fibre, fibre swaps, fibre-rich, figs, high fibre, inulin powder, lucuma, mixed nuts, mixed seeds, Nuts, pasta, porridge, prunes, psyllium husk, Pulses, rye, Seeds, Wholefoods, wholegrain, wholemeal, wholewheat
This post was written by Yzanne