Dietary fibre is essential, even if we don’t actually digest it. Grandma would have talked about ‘eating more roughage’, with reasons that probably came under the heading of ‘too much information’. Research commissioned by the World Health Organisation has produced very strong evidence that fibre has health benefits far beyond a comfortable stomach. Grandma was right!
Why does dietary fibre matter, and how much should we be eating?
The term ‘dietary fibre’ refers to the parts of plants that the human digestion cannot process. That means that we don’t extract any nutrition from fibre.
Muscles need to work against resistance to remain strong and healthy, which is why we all need to do some strength work. The same principle applies to the muscles of our digestive tract. They move food along in a synchronised ‘wave’ known as peristalsis. This process needs something to work against as the food is broken down. That ‘something’ is dietary fibre.
As well as the general digestive benefits, keeping the waste products moving with good peristalsis is believed to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. It also seems to encourage the ‘good’ bacteria that our digestive systems need and that contribute to general health. We can’t digest fibre, but those bacteria can.
UK Government guidelines now suggest that adults should aim for at least 30 grams of fibre per day. As examples, a jacket potato with the skin on will give about 6 grams and a bowl of high-fibre breakfast cereal around 8 grams. Simple baked beans on toast gives 15 grams. Top up with an apple, a banana and a few nuts and you’ve hit the daily target.
With wholegrains and plenty of plant food sources as part of your daily diet, you are doing your body a big favour with fibre.
Michael is right, unfortunately - the amount of sugar added to bread and standard baked beans is ridiculous. There are low sugar varieties of beans, although they can be full of sweeteners, catch 22. I'm looking into investing in a bread maker and cooking up my own beans.
Yes baked beans on toast gives you lots of fibre, but it's also high in salt and sugar so not such a good choice for some of us.
I would recommend eating a plant-based diet and am certain that all the lentils and vegetables this involves eating gives me enough fibre without having to measure grams at all.
that's interesting about how fibre can help health even though it goes straight through. I shall eat my grains!