ALTHOUGH it is common knowledge that a high fibre diet “keeps you regular”, a recent study, published in the medical journal, the Lancet, reveals the benefits of fibre are far greater than just this. Using 40 years of data, the authors demonstrated that fibre lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

The current recommended daily fibre intake for an adult is 30g, yet only one in 10 in the UK are reaching this level, with most around the 18g mark.

Indeed worldwide, most adults do not consume more than 20g of fibre per day.

This study also goes against those who advocate a low carbohydrate diet as an aid to weight loss.

Although “bad” carbohydrate in the form of refined sugars may cause weight gain, a restricted carbohydrate diet will also be lower in fibre.

There are two types of fibre, known as soluble and insoluble.

Most sources of fibre contain both.

Insoluble cannot be broken down in water and hence travels through the gut largely unaltered.

It adds volume to stools (faeces) as well as drawing in water to make them softer.

This gives the bowel more to grip on to, with motions passed more easily and quickly.

Conditions associated with constipation and straining include diverticular disease and haemorrhoids.

Soluble fibre, as the name suggest, does dissolve in water and can be broken down.

In the stomach it forms a gel which reduces excess cholesterol being absorbed, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.

Soluble fibre slows down digestion.

Sugars are released into the bloodstream in a steadier manner, levels do not fluctuate as much and your energy is maintained, reducing cravings for high sugar snacks.

Fibre also increases the number of helpful bacteria in the gut.

An overgrowth of unhelpful gut bacteria is linked with greater risk of bowel cancer.

While 30g does not sound a lot, the average 120g banana contains just 3g of fibre, so increasing the amount in your diet has to be a committed effort, encompassing all meals in the day.

Choose a high fibre breakfast cereal.

A 40g bowl of Bran Flakes contains 8g of fibre.

If you like toast, pick a brown or wholegrain variety, rather than white bread, from which most of the fibre is removed.

At lunch, a medium sized baked potato with the skin on will give you 4g of fibre.

Baked beans are a good source; a 150g serving contains almost 7g.

If you prefer pasta dishes, again try to go for wholemeal.

A 75g portion has 8g of fibre in it.

For dinner, make vegetables a regular part of any dish.

If you are cooking a stew, curry or even a light salad; add pulses, lentils and chickpeas, all excellent dietary sources of


Try to build up your fibre intake gradually if you feel it is low, as

a sudden increase may result

in abdominal pain and


Similarly, persons suffering with IBS may find a high fibre diet can worsen their symptoms.