High fibre diet: 6 simple food swaps to up your roughage intake

Rosie Fitzmaurice

While everyone has been harping on about the benefits of complex high fat, low carb eating regimes, recent research suggests that a much simpler approach might actually be the answer to living longer.

In a major study conducted over almost 40 years and published in The Lancet, a high-fibre diet was associated with reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Dietary sources of fibre include fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, pulses and nuts. Foods like lentils, kidney beans, artichokes and avocados, are particularly rich in fibre, which can aid digestion and prevent constipation, while also making you feel fuller for longer.

The review, which was commissioned by the World Health Organization and carried out by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, looked at 185 observational studies and 58 clinical trials.

It found that people who ate the most fibre had a reduced risk of death from all causes by as much as 30 per cent, compared to those who didn't. Eating lots of fibre was also associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 24 per cent. This is equivalent to 13 less deaths and six fewer cases of heart disease per 1,000 study participants.

It could help you lose weight, too. Increasing fibre intake was also linked to a reduction in bodyweight and cholesterol in the meta-analysis of clinical trials.

"Fibre-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favourably influence lipid and glucose levels," says Professor Jim Mann. "The breakdown of fibre in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer."

Start your day with bran flakes are a good course of dietary fibre (Photo by Ryan Pouncy on Unsplash)

So how much fibre do you need in your diet?

Current NHS guidelines state that we should be eating 30g of fibre per day, but it estimates most British adults consume just 18g a day on average.

The results from this new study suggest that eating between 25g and 29g of fibre each day was sufficient, however it also notes that a higher consumption of fibre could provide more protection against diseases.

High fibre foods to boost your intake, according to the NHS:

  1. Start your day with a high-fibre breakfast cereal like Weetabix, Shredded wheat, porridge or bran flakes
  2. Opt for wholemeal or granary bread - rye bread is particularly high in fibre - as well as wholegrains, like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat and brown rice
  3. Choose skin-on potatoes like baked potato or new potatoes
  4. Eat plenty of beans and pulses, like lentils and chickpeas. Add them to stews, curries or salads
  5. Snack on fresh fruit, celery and carrot sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, nuts and seeds
  6. Add more veg to your meals