Do you have enough Fibre in your diet?

According to research carried out by the University of Otago in New Zealand, there is a dietary link between people who eat more fibre and the reduction in heart related illnesses, diabetes Type 2 and colorectal cancer.

The report published in The Lancet medical journal, investigated 58 clinical trials and 158 ‘prospective’ studies carried out across the world, looking at the importance of ‘fibre, whole grains, dietary glycaemic index, and glycaemic load on health.’

Researchers found through analysing these studies and clincal trials carried out over of the last four decades, they were able to find a 15-30% decrease in these diseases which can lead to long-term health issues and death.

The lead author of the report, Dr Andrew Reynolds, of the Department of Medicine and the University’s Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre, states that this provides ‘convincing evidence that we should increase our dietary fibre intake and replace refined grains with whole grains.’

Dr Reynolds states that the findings show that the majority of people’s daily intake of fibre in their diets is currently less than 20 grams. This would need to be ‘at least 25 to 29 grams’.

The World Health Organisation is understood to have commissioned the report as a key vehicle for informing ‘the development of new recommendations for optimal daily fibre intake and to determine which types of carbohydrate provide the best protection against non-communicable diseases and weight gain.’

Why is fibre important?

Fibre is the section of the food groups which are not completely digested by the human body and are passed as waste.

Fibre consists of cellulose, lignin and pectin which do not digest in the small intestine and helps in the process of keeping a digestive system healthy and preventing constipation.

Injesting a lot of fibre has been linked to decreasing cases of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, bowel and colon cancers.

How do you improve the amount of Fibre in your diet?

According to Malta’s Health Ministry, fibre should be a key part of the Maltese diet. Under the Malta Food and Nutrition Policy, it should be part of a daily and weekly balanced diet.

They recommend choosing wholemeal or wholegrain foods like wholegrain pastas and cereals. It is understood that these contain the unprocessed germ and bran which is normally lost in other products like rice and white bread. Taken on a daily and weekly basis, these can help protect against heart disease and cancers mentioned above.

Fruit and Vegetables:

The advice recommends 3-5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables (80g) which contain the necessary antioxidants and fibre.

Legumes:

Legumes are considered to contain very high levels of fibre. The advice is to take two or more servings of 70g on a weekly basis. It is understood that the level of dietary fibre in Legumes are known to help keep cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood, regulated.

Olives, Nuts and Seeds:

A good protein source as well as providing iron and zinc. The presence of fatty acids in this food group helps to regulate blood fats reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The fatty acids found in nuts and seeds have been shown to improve the profile of blood fats, leading to a decrease in the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Nuts: 80-90g per week (equivalent to 20g x 4-5 times a week); Seeds: 60-70g per week (equivalent to 15g x 4-5 times a week)

Wholegrains:

These include; couscous, quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats, barley and millet, pasta and rice. These can be consumed with meals and snacks and mixed with yoghurt and fruit.

1 serving = 1 medium slice of bread; 40g = breakfast cereals; 80-100g = cereals, pasta and rice preferably wholegrain or wholemeal