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Sugar and fibre

Let’s not forget about fibre!

Since the publication of the Carbohydrates and Health report and the new recommendations on free sugars made by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), sugar has dominated the media headlines. Yet in the same report in which the sugars recommendations were made, new recommendations were also made for dietary fibre following a review of the evidence around fibre and health. Whilst sugar remains a hot topic, it’s important that fibre isn’t overlooked.

What are the new fibre recommendations?

The new recommendations are higher than the previous recommendations set by COMA back in 1991 and include new age specific recommendations for children:

Age group Fibre recommendation
2-5 yrs 15g/day
5-11 yrs 20g/day
11-16 yrs 25g/day
16-18 yrs 30g/day
Adults 30g/day

Why do we need fibre in our diets?

Fibre has multiple benefits to health. Studies show that higher fibre intakes are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes and colo-rectal cancer. Fibre is also beneficial to gut health because it decreases intestinal transit time (meaning waste travels through the digestive tract more quickly) and increases faecal mass, thereby helping to prevent constipation. Evidence also shows that oat bran and beta glucans can help to reduce blood cholesterol. Because the evidence for the wide ranging health benefits of fibre comes from studies where fibre is consumed from a variety of foods where it is present as a natural component, SACN recommends that fibre intakes should be achieved through a variety of food sources.

Where can we get it from?

Fibre is found in a number of foods including wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, beans and pulses, fruits and vegetables, oats, nuts and seeds.  Current intakes however are much lower than the recommendations across all age groups in the population, and so knowing which foods provide fibre is important to help people increase their intakes. Following a healthy, balanced diet, consuming at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day and choosing wholegrain foods will help people to meet the new recommendations.

Ways to increase your fibre intake:

  • Choose a wholegrain breakfast cereal  with no added sugar, like porridge, plain wheat biscuits or muesli, and add some fresh fruit and/or a spoonful of seeds
  • Choose wholemeal bread and pasta instead of white varieties
  • Eat potatoes with skins
  • Add beans, pulses and vegetables to soups, sauces and curries
  • Swap a sugary chocolate biscuit or cereal bar for a handful of unsalted nuts
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