Dietary fibre – why is it good for you?

Dietary fibre has been consumed for centuries. It has been recognised as having health benefits. This is supported by over 100 years research into dietary fibre’s physical and chemical properties, physiology and metabolic effects.

Dietary fibre has many definitions. Dietary fibre includes plant based carbohydrates that are not digested in the small intestine and therefore reach the large intestine. Dietary fibre includes soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble forms of fibre include guar gum, pectin, ispaghula and psyllium. Insoluble forms of fibre include cellulose and wheat bran.

Adults in the UK are currently recommended to consume 30g of fibre per day using AOAC fibre method which includes starch and lignin as well as non starch polysaccharides. Unfortunately, a large proportion of adults in the UK lack fibre in their diet. This has been shown from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) results 2014-2016.

Foods that are rich in fibre include wholegrain bread, breakfast cereals, barley, oats, whole wheat pasta, pears, oranges, broccoli, carrots, nuts, seeds, peas, beans and lentils.

Fibre intake can be increased by using the following tips:

  •  Eat wholegrain cereals for breakfast i.e. Weetabix, bran flakes. Seeds and nuts can also be added to cereals to increase fibre intake.
  •  Eat wholemeal or wholegrain breads.
  •  Eat potatoes with skins to increase fibre intake.
  •  Add chickpeas, lentils and beans to salads and stews.
  •  Eat foods high in fibre for snacks i.e. oranges, oatcakes, carrot sticks, seeds, rye crackers.

Dietary fibre has many health benefits. These include increasing satiety by adding bulk to the diet. Fibre adds bulk to stools which reduces constipation. Fibre is fermented in the large intestine. A product produced in the fermentation process are short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s). SCFA’s promote colonic absorption and provide energy for the body. They may have an influence on satiety hormones in the large intestine. SCFA’s may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Fibre also has a function in the absorption of vitamin K. The US Food and Drug Administration agency have accepted health claims for foods which contain oat products (oats, oat bran and oat flour), psyllium and barley for their cholesterol lowering effects.

Dietary fibre in both soluble and insoluble forms is essential for gut health. Dietary fibre increases satiety and increases stool bulk, reducing constipation. Oats have been shown to have a cholesterol lowering effect. SCFA’s produced from the products of fermented fibre are beneficial to health by providing energy for the body and promoting colonic absorption. Dietary fibre is found in many foods. Fibre is indeed very beneficial for our health

 

References:

British Nutrition Foundation, 2018. Dietary fibre. [online] Available at:<https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html > [Accessed 15 July 2019].

Dhingra, D., Michael, M., Rajput, H. & Patil, R.T. 2012. Dietary fibre in foods: a review, Journal of Food Science and Technology, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 255-266.

Public Health England, 2018. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015 to 2015/2016). London: Public Health England. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined > [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Reynolds, A., Mann, J., Cummings, J., Winter, N., Mete, E. & Te Morenga, L. 2019, Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, The Lancet, vol. 393, no. 10170, pp. 434-445.

 

 

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