The benefits of Fibre

bowl of fibrous fruit

Scientists wanted to find out how much fibre people really need to eat to stay healthy. They found out that fibre has a lot of health benefits.

Before, people thought that fibre didn’t do much at all inside the body. They thought that the human body could not digest it and it just passed through.

But now we know that fibre makes us feel full and affects the way fat is absorbed by our intestines.

What fibre is and what it does in the body

We all have large and small intestines. Billions of bacteria live inside our large intestines and fibre is their food. Bacteria are fermenting, breaking down fibre to make a range of chemicals that are absorbed by the rest of the body.

The benefits of fibre
Lentils contain a lot of fibre.

We have this organ set up to digest fibre, which a lot of people just don’t use very much,”… The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it,”

Professor John Cummings

Foods with fibre

Fibre is found in fruit, vegetables, some breakfast cereals, bread and pasta that use whole grains, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds.

People should eat a minimum of 25g of fibre per day. Most people around the world are eating less than 20g of fibre a day. On average, women consume about 17g, and men 21g, a day.

What does 30 grams of fibre look like?

Elaine Rush, a professor of nutrition at Auckland University of Technology, has put together this example of 25-30 grams of fibre.

  • Half a cup of rolled oats = 9g fibre
  • Two Weetabix = 3g fibre
  • A thick slice of brown bread = 2g fibre
  • A potato cooked with the skin on = 2g fibre
  • A carrot = 3g fibre
  • An apple with the skin on = 4g fibre

But she says: “It is not easy to increase fibre in the diet.” Professor Cummings agrees. “It’s a big change for people,” he says. “It’s quite a challenge.”

A banana weighs about 120g but that’s not pure fibre. It only has about 3g of fibre.

After analysing 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results were published in the Lancet medical journal.

It suggests if 1,000 people changed from a low fibre diet to a high-fibre one it would prevent 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease.

The more fibre people eat, the better. It means eating more healthy fruit and vegetables.

We need to take serious note of this study. This research confirms that fibre and whole-grain intakes are clearly important for longer-term health.”

Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge

One of the suggested ways of adding more fibre into your diet is to switch from white bread to brown or wholemeal.

The study has been done to help the World Health Organization come up with official guidelines for how much fibre people should be eating to boost health and they are expected next year.

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