Dietary fibre: why it’s important and how to get more into your diet

Cristian Halati

The British Nutrition Foundation defines dietary fibre as a term that refers to plant-based carbohydrates that are not digested in the small intestine and are thus able to reach the large intestine or colon.  

Dietary fibre has been clinically associated with numerous health benefits, and as such, integrating plenty of fibre as part of a nutritionally balanced diet is a crucial tool for maintaining good health and ensuring disease prevention.  

This blog will explore the health benefits associated with dietary fibre consumption and discuss what the recommended levels of fibre consumption are, and which fibre-rich foods you can incorporate into your diet to increase your overall consumption of dietary fibre.  

Health Benefits of Fibre  

Dietary fibre has been scientifically proven to hold numerous health benefits that range from keeping the digestive system healthy, to preventing chronic disease and cancer.  

One of the most powerful benefits of dietary fibre consumption is its ability to protect against bowel cancer, one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Amongst the primary putative reasons for this beneficial association is an accelerated intestinal transit time, which occurs as a direct result of increased dietary fibre consumption. Dietary fibre also exerts some of its beneficial effects by decreasing the contact time that some carcinogens have with the bowels.  

Increased fibre consumption has also been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes and Type 2 Diabetes. Moreover, fibre consumption can also improve weight maintenance and positively regulate intestinal bacteria.

Starchy foods such wholegrain bread are excellent sources of dietary fibre

How can I increase my fibre consumption?  

As of 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends that adults consume an average of 30g of dietary fibre per day. At the time of the publication of these guidelines, the average adult in the UK was found to consume roughly 18g of fibre per day.  

As supported by the robust health benefits outlined, integrating more fibre-rich foods into your daily diet is undoubtedly a worthwhile effort.  

The NHS recommends that dietary fibre should be obtained from a variety of sources, to maintain a nutritionally varied and balanced diet. Fibre-rich foods include:

  • Wholegrain bread or higher fibre white bread  
  • Wholegrain oats and cereals such as Weetabix  
  • Whole wheat pasta  
  • Potatoes with their skin on  
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, sweetcorn, carrots  
  • Pulses such as beans and lentils and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, chesnuts, flax, chia, pumpkin)

You can find the full NHS dietary fibre recommendations here.  

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