Found exclusively in foods that come from plants, fibre is a complex carbohydrate with an important part to play in any healthy, balanced diet.
However, figures from the British Nutrition Foundation indicate that most of us here in the UK were eating only 14g of fibre a day in 2014 – 22% less than the NHS-recommended minimum at the time, 18g. Now that the recommendations on fibre intake have increased to 30g a day, it’s a good time to learn more about what fibre is and where to find it.
So what is fibre, and why might we want to eat more of it?
Why do we need fibre?
As we mentioned above, fibre is a complex carbohydrate; compared to other carbohydrates, however, fibre has a low calorific value. It is the way fibre behaves once eaten that makes it important for a healthy diet.
- Soluble fibre is digestible, with the various different kinds of fibre helping to move food through the body in different ways, for example by accelerating intestinal transit or contributing to normal bowel function.
- Insoluble fibre can’t be digested. Often called ‘roughage’, it helps other foods move through the digestive system.
It’s important to drink plenty of water with high fibre foods, and not to increase your fibre intake suddenly, as this can make you feel bloated.
What is fibre good for?
Beta-glucan, a kind of fibre found in oats and barley, helps to lower cholesterol. A daily intake of 3g of beta-glucan, enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, is the amount required for this effect*.
What is fibre found in?
Most plant-based foods – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses, and products made from these foods – contain fibre. It is not found in any meat or dairy, although these have other important parts to play in a healthy diet.
Foods containing soluble fibre include:
- Oats and other cereals like barley.
- Root vegetables.
Foods containing insoluble fibre include:
- Wholemeal cereals and breads.
- Nuts and seeds, also a good source of unsaturated fats.
- Wheat bran.
Fibre and cholesterol: Dietary tips to try
If you are interested in lowering your cholesterol to a desirable level, you can eat oats along with ProActiv’s range of products containing added plant sterols**. Here are some ways to increase your fibre intake and enjoy our range of spreads, mini drinks, and skimmed milk:
- Make a fruit smoothie: blend oats with two of your five-a-day with one of our tasty mini-drinks – flavours include strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry, original, and mango and cherry.
- Top oat cereal or muesli with 200 ml of our skimmed milk, and plenty of chopped or dried fruits and a sprinkle of nuts and seeds.
- Make sandwiches or toast with oat or barley wholegrain bread, and then top with one of our spreads and your favourite fillings. Our snack and sandwich recipes could give you some inspiration!
- Combine a little ProActiv spread with fresh finely chopped pesto, garlic, and pine nuts, and melt through barley risotto.
Need more inspiration? Check out the rest of our balanced recipes here.
*High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.
**A daily consumption of 1.5 – 2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle with sufficient fruit and vegetables*.