Is it time to up your fibre intake?

RD BSc, Health Coach Dietitian at Bupa UK
23 November 2015
Bowl of risotto

Fibre is found in vegetables, fruits and grains. When we include these in our diet, we get help in preventing problems such as constipation, heart disease and cancer. But most of us in the UK don’t eat enough – do you?

Why fibre is important?

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. It can help to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers. It can also help with weight management and can improve your overall digestive health.

Fibre is found in plant-based foods. It’s not found in meat or dairy products. There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Both types are important and work in different ways to help keep your body healthy.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre is found in grains like oats and barley, and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Other sources of soluble fibre include vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and certain fruits like bananas, apples and strawberries.

This type of fibre helps your body in several ways.

  • It helps to soften stools thus making them easier to pass. This can help prevent constipation.
  • It helps to reduce cholesterol level by forming a gel in the gut which binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids. This prevents cholesterol being absorbed by your body. The cholesterol is then excreted in your waste.  

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre is found in wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, nut and seeds, and fruit and vegetable skins.

Insoluble fibre keeps your bowels healthy and prevents digestive problems. It passes through your gut without being broken down and helps other foods to move through your digestive system.

How much fibre do I need?

UK guidelines recommend that adults eat 30g of a fibre a day. But most of us don’t eat nearly enough. 

How can I get more fibre into my diet?

Here are five simple ways you can add more fibre to your diet.

1. Start the day right

Have a high-fibre breakfast such as a bran cereal like bran flakes or fruit and fibre), which contains roughly 9g of fibre per serving. Boost the fibre content by adding little extras like:

  • half a small apple (with the skin on) for an extra gram and a half of fibre
  • sliced banana for an extra 3g of fibre

You could also opt for wholemeal toast or porridge to mix things up throughout the week.

2. Fill up on beans

Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are very high in fibre and you can add them to salads, soups, stews, rice dishes and casseroles. Why not add:

  • half a cup (4oz) of pinto beans to a salad for an extra 7g of fibre
  • half a cup (4oz) of green peas as a side for an extra 4g of fibre
  • half a cup (4oz) of chickpeas to your soup for an extra 7g of fibre

3. Have a high-fibre snack

Swap that naughty afternoon treat for a healthier option such as:

  • some veggie sticks and a hummus dip
  • a handful of almonds, which has around 3–4g fibre
  • fruit like an apple or a pear – leave the skin on

4. Try a grain-based salad

Try a grain-based salad for a change. A salad based on half a cup of quinoa already contains about 4g of fibre. And if you add some vegetables, you can add another 4g.

5. Read food labels

Check food labels and try and select foods that have plenty of fibre in each serving.

Easy does it

Before you go about changing your eating plan completely in a day, remember it’s best to increase your fibre intake gradually. A sudden increase may produce wind, bloating and stomach cramps. It's also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids so the fibre has something to absorb, otherwise you may become constipated. But when you’re finally following a fibre-rich, well-balanced diet, you’ll be doing your digestive system and your heart’s health a lot of good!


Valerie Maclean
RD BSc, Health Coach Dietitian at Bupa UK

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