Healthy Eating: Eat More Fibre

Why you should increase the amount of fibre you eat

Modern food manufacturing processes make life much easier for us in many ways. Most of us don’t have to grow our own food. We don’t have to get up early in the morning, go out into the fields and break our backs picking the food we need to eat. We don’t even have to wash our food or prepare it for cooking. We can walk into a supermarket and buy our food in boxes and tins. The preservatives used by food manufacturers mean that we can keep stocks of food on our pantry shelves so that we only have to visit the shops once a month! Life has never been easier and the big food companies spend a lot of time and energy trying to make things easier and easier for us.

Unfortunately, our bodies have failed to develop and change as fast as the food industry has changed the sort of food we eat. One major problem is that although food manufacturers have got into the habit of removing most of the roughage—which they see as waste—from our food our bodies still need that roughage in order to function properly.

When they first started doing this the food manufacturers probably thought that they were doing us a favour. After all, fibre doesn’t contain any obvious nutrients. Indeed, most of the fibre we eat goes straight through our intestinal tracts and comes out—almost unchanged—at the other end. Fibre doesn’t help you to build muscles and it doesn’t provide essential ingredients.

However, despite this, fibre is an essential part of your daily diet; it helps to stimulate the digestive system, helps to keep food moving and gives the bowels something to squeeze. Since fibre is filling but low calorie, the consumption of a diet which contains a good quantity of fibre means that you will be less likely to put on weight.

This slimming quality of fibre is enhanced by the feet that fibre slows down the absorption of sugar and helps to reduce the amount of fat that your body absorbs. Fibre may not contain any essential nutrients but it is a vital part of your diet—particularly if you want to lose excess weight and stay slim. If your diet contains too little fibre then the result will be that in addition to being overweight you may well be susceptible to a wide range of disorders as varied as cancer, diverticular disease of the bowel, appendicitis, gallstones and varicose veins.

By now it should be clear to you that the chances are high that you need to eat far more fibre. If your present diet is ‘average* and depends heavily on prepackaged, modern ‘convenience’ foods, then you probably need to double your consumption of fibre. You can get all the extra fibre you need simply by taking special care about the diet you eat. You do not need to spend money buying special fibre supplements. In fact your body will be healthier if you get the fibre it needs simply by making some fundamental alterations to the sort of things that you eat on a regular basis.

Seven ways in which increasing your fibre intake will improve your health

Foods which contain a large amount of fibre tend to need a lot of chewing. This will help your digestion.

By eating regular amounts of fibre you will help to ensure that your body gets rid of waste products more easily. A diet which contains too little fibre is likely to lead to constipation. A diet which contains decent quantities of fibre is likely to produce healthy and regular bowel movements.

If you ensure that your diet contains good quantities of fibre you will reduce your chances of suffering from a wide range of digestive troubles—including appendicitis, gallstones and many bowel and stomach problems (including cancer).

Because foods which contain large quantities of fibre are filling (but inevitably contain relatively few calories) a diet which includes many fibre rich foods will result in you feeling full sooner and, therefore, eating less. An important advantage of this type of diet is that you will be less likely to put on excess weight and more likely to be able to stay slim when you have become slim.

A diet which contains decent quantities of fibre will protect you from a variety of non bowel disorders—including diabetes and varicose veins!

The fibre in the food you eat helps to reduce the amount of fat that your body absorbs. Inevitably, therefore, this means that a high fibre diet will help reduce the amount of damage which fat does to your body. By eating plenty of fibre rich foods you will reduce your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure or a stroke.

Because fibre helps to absorb unwanted toxins and poisons— which you may swallow with the food you eat—a high fibre diet will help to stop these toxic substances being absorbed into your body and making you ill.

Ten natural, healthy, easy ways to increase the amount of fibre you eat

Warning: If your fibre intake is low you should increase the amount of fibre you eat fairly gradually and slowly. If you suddenly and dramatically increase your fibre intake you may suffer from wind, pain and other signs of abdominal discomfort.

Try to eat more bread. Your intake of fibre will be kept

Highest if you eat wholemeal bread rather than white bread.

Eat more pasta. Again your intake of fibre will be maximised if you eat wholewheat pasta rather than white pasta.

Make a real effort to eat more fresh vegetables, a simple move which will dramatically increase your fibre intake. Try not to peel vegetables before you cook them—and certainly don’t peel them too thickly. Take special care not to cook your vegetables for too long. And make sure that you cook them in as little water as possible. When preparing salads add shredded or grated raw vegetables.

You should also increase your intake of fresh fruit. Some fruits are rich in fibre.

Eat more rice. If possible eat brown rice rather than white rice.

When you are cooking use wholemeal or wholewheat flour whenever possible.

Oats are an excellent source of fibre. You can eat them in cereals or in porridge or you can use them to make biscuits and crumbles.

Instead of nibbling sugar rich sweets or fat rich chocolates eat fibre rich dried fruits between meals when you want a snack.

Try to eat more pulses (such as beans). These contain quite a lot of fibre.

If you must buy biscuits (which tend to contain large quantities of sugar) try to buy wholemeal biscuits—which are likely to contain more fibre.