Fibre and your health; time for a rethink

Fibre is an essential part of the human diet, strategic reviews indicate that consuming just 30g of fibre a day is correlated to reduced risk of colon cancer, type-2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Fibre and your health
Fibre and your health

For most of us, there is a simple thing we can do to improve our short and long-term health, eat more fibre! The role of fibre in regulating digestion has been understood by humans for hundreds of years. But the full benefits linked to fibre (also known as roughage) are only just starting to be understood. A recent study published in The Lancet1 analysed a wide range of research and found that a shortage of fibre in our diets is linked to greater risks of type-2 diabetes, bowel cancer, heart attacks and strokes. In addition, people that eat more fibre tend to have lower weight, lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol levels. Amazingly the research suggested that consuming a mere 30g (1oz) of fibre a day was sufficient to deliver the full range of health benefits. To put this into some kind of perspective the 30g target can be reached by consuming four slices of brown bread, eating a handful of nuts and seeds in addition to the regulation five portions of fruit and veg a day. In essence, it is available to most of us with only a few small changes to our eating habits.

pile of sliced wheat breads

Fibre consumed through our diet can be divided into two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is generally thought of as a prebiotic, which means it supports communities of helpful bacteria in the gut microbiome. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and typically passes through the digestive system aiding bowel movements. Most fibre rich foods contain soluble and insoluble elements, today food science is more concerned with the total amount of fibre rather than the different forms (cellulose, pectins and beta glucans) we eat.

In summary; fibre is an essential part of the human diet, strategic reviews of the available evidence strongly suggest that consuming 30g of fibre a day is correlated to a reduced risk of colon cancer, type-2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. There is a growing body of evidence that fibre also plays an important role in maintaining helpful bacteria in the gut microbiome.

Foods rich in fibre2 include;

  • Wholegrains (wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, oats, barley,  rye and wholegrain bread).
  • Fibre-rich fruits (berries, apple, pear, melon and orange).
  • Fibre-rich vegetables (broccoli, carrot and sweetcorn).
  • A wide range of pulses, peas and beans.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Root crops cooked with skins on (potatoes, sweet potatoes).

Notes

1www.thelancet.com
2www.nutrition.org.uk

Author: eatscientifically

As a researcher working with the contemplative sciences, it became evident to me that food plays an important role in the life of most regular meditators. From this realisation, it was only a small step to identify correlations between diet and certain cognitive characteristics linked to meditation and mindfulness. Over the last decade, science has been increasingly supporting the view that our diet meditates our gut bacteria, which in turn directly correlates with our physical and mental health. Central to this understanding is the appreciation that some simple and inexpensive fermented foods and drinks make a positive contribution to gut health. Science now supports the proposition that improving your gut health is likely to increase your resilience to a number of illnesses including some forms of cancer, heart disease, depression and anxiety.

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