October 27, 2010
The Benefits of a Frequent Fibre Program
A few months ago my Aunt commented that I was too young to be eating a high fibre breakfast cereal. I guess she figured that the only people that needed high fibre were the type of 60+ oldies they show on TV ads about ‘keeping you regular’.
Fibre doesn’t seem nearly as sexy and interesting as omega-3s or antioxidants, but by starting a high fibre diet while you’re young you can actually increase your chances of staying healthier for longer. People that eat more fibre are 33% less likely to develop diabetes and 14% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
As part of my research project for my Masters degree (just finished – yay!) I reviewed the research on how fibre can help you keep a healthy weight and lower blood pressure. What I found was that people who eat a high fibre diet are less likely to put on weight. High fibre foods tend to be bulky, with lots of nutrients but not many calories (think of a big plate of vegetables). This means that they fill you up and you tend to eat less calories in total, making you less likely to put on weight.
I also found that cereal fibre can help people with high blood pressure reduce it by as much as 7mmHg, even when they are on medication. To put that in perspective that is the same effect as a low salt diet, the first change recommended by your doctor to lower blood pressure. So there are a lot of benefits to a high-fibre diet even before your 60th birthday.
How much fibre do you need?
To help prevent heart disease the Australian and other international guidelines recommend women eat 28 grams of fibre each day and men 38 grams.
Most Australians don’t eat enough fibre. The average Australian woman eats about 20g of fibre per day and the average man eats about 26g. This means that most of us could benefit from an extra 10g of fibre each day.
Not to worry, you don’t have to eat horse chaff three meals a day to get that much fibre – it’s found it lots of foods and, as always, variety is the key. Nuts, wholegrain foods, bran, legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils) all have fibre. Two serves of fruit and 5 serves of veggies also adds lots of fibre to your day.
If you think back to my wholegrain post you might remember that the bran layer of a grain has lots of fibre but this is removed when a food is refined, so by choosing wholegrain you are often choosing high fibre.
Your high fibre day might look like this:
Breakfast: A bowl of high fibre cereal (more than 3g per serve) with milk with strawberries (5 grams)
Snack: A handful of unsalted nuts (3 grams)
Lunch: Tuna and salad wholemeal sandwich with a piece of fresh fruit (10 grams)
Snack: 2 wholegrain crispbreads with low fat cream cheese (3 grams)
Dinner: 1 cup of whole wheat (brown) pasta with beef and kidney bean bolognaise sauce and a cup of mixed salad (14g)
A low-fat frozen yoghurt bar
Too much of a good thing
Before you race out and buy an extra large pack of fruit and nuts remember that it’s a good idea to gradually increase the fibre in your diet otherwise you can get a bit uncomfortable. Go for swapping one low fibre food for a high fibre option each week until you reach your goal. As always, drink plenty of water (at least 1L) and get some exercise each day. More than 40g every day can stop you from getting the calcium and iron from other foods so remember moderation and variety are the key.