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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

How much fibre should I eat in a day?

Hello, I have been having a few concerns with the old bowels and the doctor told me I need to increase fibre in my diet. Any advice e.g. how many grams I should be having a day? If I up my fibre, is it usually ok for a low calorie diet? I bought some figs and was shocked the calories were equivalent to chocolate bar!! Thanks Lolalola

A.

Our expert says...

Hi Lolalola

Fibre is often one of those elusive nutrients that we hear about but don't give much thought to when it comes to making healthy choices in our diets. In fact, for some it's an ignored aspect of eating until they experience digestive difficulties, at which time their doctor may then suggest monitoring fibre intake to ensure a healthy digestive system.

Fibre is the indigestible carbohydrate residue found in food and is one of the substances that make you feel full after eating. A high intake of fibre speeds up the passage of food through the body, and so helps to accelerate the removal of toxins and waste as well. During digestion fibre passes intact through the stomach and digestive tract into the large bowel where it absorbs water and other waste materials. It is then passed as waste from the body. Scientists have shown that eating large amounts of soluble fibre reduces the rate at which nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. This has been linked with a reduced spike in blood glucose after a meal, so can help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. Soluble fibre also delays gastric emptying and slows the passage of food through our intestines, prolonging the feeling of fullness after eating a meal. It is found in large quantities in oats, fresh and dried fruits and pulses.

Insoluble fibre is found mainly in whole-grain varieties of food such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, whole-grain breakfast cereals and vegetables. It passes through the gut, largely undigested, helping food and waste products to move through the body more easily. This helps encourage regular bowel movements and prevents constipation.

In the UK we eat on average 12g fibre per day, but new guidelines suggest this should be 18g, of both kinds of fibre. Most fibrous foods have a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fibre, so it is a good idea to eat a variety of fibre-rich foods. Porridge for breakfast and a jacket potato for dinner will get you well on the way to your 18g.

All bran and other bran based cereals and pure bran are amongst the very best source of fibre (but it's not advised you throw lots of bran over everything because too much can actually irritate your gut and start to interfere with the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron and zinc). A word of caution: if you are increasing your fibre intake from a relatively low level, it is best to do it gradually. This is because a sudden increase may produce wind, bloating and stomach cramps - which can be rather uncomfortable for a little while. A gradual increase will avoid this problem.

A good way to get fibre is from whole grain foods, where it's not just fibre that's present but other important parts of the whole grain which are the germ and endosperm. Whole grain pasta is a really good fibre source as is wholemeal bread. Brown rice isn't quite so good but still counts! The other place to find fibre is in fruit and veg, so this is one area where you can have variety and also get a combination of other vitamins and minerals to provide a healthy, balanced diet.

Figs are a rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and potassium, they are low in fat and high in fibre and have many health benefits. This fruit can also have a laxative effect, which can aid those who suffer from chronic constipation.

It may surprise you to know that when you eat a half-cup of figs you get as much calcium as when you drink a half-cup of milk. Figs are portable, so they are readily available as calcium-rich

snacks at home, at work, at play or on the road. Needed for strong bones and teeth, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, but one that often is lacking in diets. Growing teens and women have especially high needs for calcium, so although you have found that the calories are higher than you might expect in figs, they are full of goodness, unlike your chocolate bar! And because they have no fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium, figs are a really good choice to ensure a large variety of your daily vitamins & minerals and have also been found to help with for example lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Bear in mind though that any fruit or vegetable is bursting with fibre, particularly if you include eating the skin.

Food

Serving size

Cals

Amount

GDA (%)

Jacket potato

    180g

   245

    3.6 g

    20 %

Lentils

    80g

    80

    1.5 g

    8 %

Granary bread

    1 slice

    59

    1.1 g

    6 %

Apple

    112g

    53

    0.9 g

    5 %

Carrot

    80g

    18

    1.8 g

    10 %

Baked beans

    205g

  166

    7.4 g

    41 %

Walnuts

    20g

  138

    0.7 g

    4 %

The advantage of the Food Diary approach is that you are not limited to eating a set menu like on other diets, where often the healthy food is of less importance than the calorific or fat content of the diet itself. With the Food Diary you can select the food and drink that you feel happy to eat and drink, to keep your body as healthy as you possibly can, particularly as advised by your GP. You can also make a note of the amount of fibre you have had, using your Diary Notes section (remember to click the save button when you have written your notes).

I hope this helps.

 

Disclaimer
You are advised to seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle with an aim of weight loss. This website and the content provided should not be used by persons under 18, by pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with any type of health condition, except under the direct supervision of a qualified medical professional. The information contained in these articles, and elsewhere on this website, is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to replace, and does not constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis and may not be used for such purposes. Continue...

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