Fibre is probably pretty good for us and is particularly helpful if we are constipated… That generally seems to have been the extent of appreciation for this food group. But new research and results show that it is much much more than that…
In fact it is quite possibly the most important food for a healthy life!
So why is it that fibre might be the most important food for a healthy life and what do we now know that we didn’t know before?
Thanks to papers now published in the Lancet medical journal, the results of 185 studies and 58 clinical trials – conducted over 10-20 years – we now have a better picture of the positive impact of dietary fibre on health and longevity.
These studies were able to conclude that if 1,000 people were shifted from a low fibre to high fibre diet, 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease would be avoided. On the surface that might not sound much but extrapolated out to 10,000, 100,000, 1 million, 10 million, 100 million people – you are looking at vast numbers of lives being improved and saved.
Type-2 diabetes, bowel cancer, cholesterol and blood pressure were also shown to be considerably aided by a higher fibre diet. And the more fibre people ate, the better they were shown to be.
Professor John Cummings was involved in the studies and told the BBC; “The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it”.
He also added that it could be “a big change for people and it’s quite a challenge”.
How much fibre?
The reason it could be a challenge is that the amount required to make these huge impacts on cancer, blood pressure, cholesterol, strokes, diabetes and heart attacks is quite significant – 30g per day.
The current average consumption is 17g for women and 21g for men. Considerably short of target.
If, like me, you are not particularly good at visualizing 25-30g these indicators should help:
1 x banana = 3g
2 x weetabix = 3g
a cup of cooked lentils = 4g
1 x slice of thick brown bread = 2g
1 x jacket potato with skin on = 2g
1 x carrot = 3g
These are of course approximations but nevertheless pretty accurate, and they clearly show that we need to consume a number of items on a daily basis to hit our 25-30g target. This is going to mean quite a change of habit for many people, particularly those who have opted for the relatively recent low carb habit.
Other foods to aim for if you want to benefit from the clearly positive effects of fibre are: breads, pasta, cereals, chickpeas, lentils, seeds and nuts.
The end of low card diets?
The idea of low carb diets has never really gained a footing amongst nutritionists and related experts but the wider public has certainly picked up on it and a burgeoning industry sprang up around it. Now this study adds credence to the fact that it was never an entirely wise step.
Professor Nita Forouhi told the BBC, “We need to take serious note of this study. Its findings do imply that any dietary regimes that recommend very low carbohydrate diets should consider the cost of missing out on fibre and whole grains.
“This research confirms that fibre and whole-grain intakes are clearly important for longer term health”.
So the message from this huge, detailed study is simple – fibre is vital to our health and is a genuine life sustainer and health giver.
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