You may have seen the recent news reporting that around 90% of us are not eating enough fibre. This has come after the publication of a paper published by Andrew Reynolds and colleagues in The Lancet medical journal, which sadly is not freely available to all, even though it was commissioned by the World Health Organisation. The paper is not the result of a new study, but an analysis in great detail of many existing studies. This has the advantage of including data from a lot of individuals in many different studies (in fact a large dataset of 135 million person years and 58 clinical trials, with a total of 4635 adult participants). The authors found a 15-30% decrease in mortality from all causes and in deaths from cardiovascular disease and a reduction in coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer amongst those consuming the highest amount of fibre when compared to those eating the least. Individuals with the highest fibre intake also had lower body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using the data, the authors were able to suggest that an intake of around 25-29g fibre per day is ideal for adults and that an intake of >30g is likely to give even more health benefits. The NHS advice suggests that for children, 2-5year olds should consume 15g; 5-11 year olds 20g; and 11-16 year olds ~25g. In the Lancet study, there were similar beneficial effects of whole grain intake on the same health outcomes.
Dietary fibres are a complex mix of carbohydrates that are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine and whole grains are the intact, ground, cracked or flaked kernel of the grain. The reasons why fibre and whole grains are so good for us are complex, but include beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin levels, making you feel fuller sooner (and therefore eating less) and improving bowel health. Eating more of the foods which are high in fibre will also mean you eat more of the good other stuff (vitamins, minerals etc.) too. A win-win situation!
You can increase your fibre intake by eating more of the following:
- Whole-grain products e.g. wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye (what could be finer than porridge for breakfast??)
- 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
There is some good advice here from the British Nutrition Foundation (link) and from the NHS (link)
Pictures from rawpixel, kai pilger, pauline bernfeld and juan jose valencia antia on Unsplash
Mr McGregor and I are feeling virtuous today having been for a walk and then eating a healthy lunch….
Although I should admit that Mr McGregor supplemented his with a piece of pork pie and I had some white bread, so we are far from perfect….
Mr McGregor thinks that it would help somehow if we still referred to fibre as ‘roughage’. I am not sure why this would make a difference, but he thinks it is at least a little more descriptive.
I experimented with making a vegan cake this week by altering a recipe I found in a Waitrose magazine – it has less than half the sugar of the original recipe (100g instead of 225g), and I am sure you could use less if you wanted, it is quite sweet enough like this. The original recipe can be found here. It also some fibre in it (hurrah) – it is packed full of bananas and made with some spelt flour. Not that I am suggesting that you should try to improve your fibre intake purely through eating cake, of course….. It is delicious and is my new favourite banana cake recipe…. And coconut milk yoghurt is very lovely, in fact there was barely enough left to make this once Mr McGregor and I had ‘tasted’ it.
Vegan banana cake (pdf vegan banana cake)
150ml sunflower oil
4 ripe bananas
100g caster sugar
175g dairy-free coconut milk yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
180g spelt flour
100g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
50g dairy free (vegan) dark chocolate (broken into small chips)
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees/170 fan, gas mark 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin
- Mash 3 bananas well with a fork
- Mix oil, sugar, yoghurt and vanilla essence together in a large bowl
- Mix in the flours and baking powder
- Finally, mix in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips. Halve the remaining banana lengthwise and lay on the top of the cake
- Pour into loaf tin and bake for ~1hour. You may need to cover with foil after 45 mins if cooking too quickly
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool fully