What is fibre and why do I need it?
Fibre is only found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereals, pulses (lentils, beans and peas), nuts and seeds. Animal products like meat, fish, eggs and dairy don’t contain any fibre.
Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet as it keeps your digestive system healthy, as well as helping to prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers.
Despite its health benefits, most of us don’t get enough fibre. In the UK adults eat an average of 14g fibre a day, which is below the government recommendation of at least 30g a day. For children the recommended intake of fibre is:
- 2-5 year olds: about 15g a day
- 5-11 year olds: about 20g a day
- 11-16 year olds: about 25g a day
- 16-18 year olds: about 30g a day
How can I increase my fibre intake?
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. A portion is the amount that fits in the palm of your hand. Lots of fibre is found in the edible skin of fruit and vegetables like apples, pears, peaches, carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Swap refined cereal products such as white bread, pasta and rice for whole grain varieties. Check the product is really whole grain by looking for the words ‘whole wheat’, ‘wholemeal’ or ‘whole grain’.
- Choose higher fibre breakfast cereals such as porridge oats, whole wheat biscuits, wheat bran cereals and muesli. Add some fresh, dried or tinned fruit to boost your fibre intake even more.
- Have a side salad or portion of vegetables with your meal.
- Add lentils, beans and chickpeas to dishes such as soups, curries, Bolognese sauce, stews and lasagne. Try lots of different varieties of beans to create varied dishes.
- Snack on plain nuts and seed, or add them during cooking. Cashews, peanuts or sesame seeds work well in stir fry dishes.
- Try replacing half the white flour with wholemeal flour when baking muffins, scones, cakes, crumbles etc.
If you don’t eat much fibre at the moment increase your intake slowly to avoid digestive discomfort and make sure you drink enough fluids. For more information take a look at our article Hydration and your health
For high fibre recipes ideas, including a whole wheat pasta with a tomato and lentil sauce, visit our recipe pages