Fibre and Wholegrains
Fibre is an important part of healthy eating. It can help protect against heart disease, weight gain and certain cancers, and can improve digestive health. Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants: fruit, vegetables, cereals and pulses.
It is recommended that adults should eat 30 g of fibre each day. Most people in the UK eat only 18 g a day – only 60% of the recommended amount.
To increase your fibre intake, try the following:
- Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal such as plain wholewheat biscuits (like Weetabix), plain shredded wholegrain (like Shredded Wheat) or porridge, as oats are also a good source of fibre.
- Go for wholemeal or granary breads, or higher-fibre white bread, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
- Eat potatoes with their skins on, such as a baked potato or boiled new potatoes.
- Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
- Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries.
- Have some fresh fruit or fruit canned in natural juice for dessert.
- Dried fruit may be eaten in moderation, but because it is sticky, it can increase the risk of tooth decay, so it's better if it is only eaten as part of a meal, rather than as a between-meal snack.
- For snacks, try fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.
To prevent constipation, it is important to ensure that an increase in fibre intake is accompanied by an increase in fluid.
Wholegrains are seeds of cereal plants such as wheat, oats, barley, rice, quinoa and maize. They are a good source of fibre, protein, vitamins B and C, and healthy fats.
Some studies have demonstrated that a healthy approach to eating which incorporates wholegrains can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and obesity.
Eating wholegrain foods as part of your diet can be a good way of managing your blood glucose levels, as they often have a low glycaemic index. However, as wholegrains contain carbohydrates they will affect your blood glucose, so it is important to consider portion sizes.
It is recommended that adults should eat at least three servings of wholegrains each day. One serving is made up of the following:
- 25 g porridge oats
- 30 g muesli
- 30 g wheat-based breakfast cereal
- 1 large slice multigrain bread
- 1 slice rye bread
- 3 oatcakes
- 20 g uncooked brown rice or wholewheat pasta
For a food to be classified as wholegrain, it must contain 51% or more wholegrain ingredients.
When you look at food labels, be cautious of terms such as ‘wholewheat’, ‘granary’ and ‘multigrain’. These words are often simply used as part of the product’s name and offer no real guarantee that the product is actually made from wholegrains. Always look at the ingredients list instead.