High fibre foods can be a brilliant way to improve your health. They're filling, low in bad fats, and full of healthy things that can help our digestive system no end.
Research from Harvard University has also shown that consuming wholegrains can slash the risk of dying from heart disease by a quarter and prevent an early death
Scientists from Harvard University's School of Public Health examined the dietary habits of 800,000 adults and found that for every 16g portion of wholegrain food consumed, the risk of death from heart disease decreased by 9%. 16 grams is equivalent to a slice of wholegrain bread, a small bowl of muesli or porridge, or half a cup of wholewheat pasta or rice.
Eating three portions a day, equivalent to 48g, reduced the risk of dying of heart disease by 25%, from cancer 14% and from other natural causes 20%.
How much should we be eating?
We should all be eating more high fibre foods - the recommended daily intake for adults is 30g a day, but most of us are only eating around 18g a day.
There are two types of fibre - insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre (brown rice, bread, fruit, some veg and cereals) helps to keep your digestive system healthy, while soluble fibre (oats and pulses) is partially digested and can help to lower cholesterol levels.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains are all high fibre foods that should make up a large part of your diet. A grain is considered "whole" when all three parts of it - brain, germ and endosperm - are intact. Refined grains, such as white bread, rice and pasta, contain only the endosperm and lose the majority of their beneficial properties in the refining process.
You should aim to eat 3 servings of wholegrains a day, but if your current diet is low in fibre, suddenly increasing your intake can lead to wind, bloating and stomach cramps.
Start slowly and soon your digestive system will adapt to the increased amount of fibre. Ensure you also drink plenty of fluids, as fibre absorbs water - not drinking enough water can lead to constipation.
High fibre foods to add to your shopping basket...
This cinema snack is actually loaded with fibre - 13g per 100g. Most pre-bought ones are loaded with salt, fat or sugar, so pop your own at home and season with herbs and spices for a healthy alternative.
A favourite for breakfast, oats are high in protein, iron, potassium, vitamin B and that all-important fibre - 11g per 100g. Pinhead oats have a nutty, firm texture, while rolled oats cook faster and are softer. Eating oats is believed to lower cholesterol and help keep you feeling full.
With 18g of fibre per 100g, bulgur wheat contains more fibre than oats, and can be found in most health-food shops and some supermarkets. It's similar in appearance and texture to cracked wheat or couscous, and is usually sold already precooked. Soak in hot water and cover for a few minutes and use in place of rice or couscous.
Pearl barley is a great alternative to white rice or couscous with a massive 17g of fibre per 100g. Although it takes longer to cook than most refined grains, it has a delicious nutty flavour and chewy texture than works well in soups and broths.
This super-trendy grain doesn't contain as much fibre as the other wholegrains - only 2.8g per 100g - but is a complete protein containing essential amino acids. Use instead of rice or couscous.
Not only will swapping white rice for brown increase your fibre intake by more than four times, but you'll also be getting a healthy dose of vitamins, calcium and iron. This delicious wholegrain requires a little longer to cook, but its nutty flavour and chewy texture works well in everything from salads to stir-frys.
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