Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Do you get enough fibre in your diet?

Being around in the 1980s as I was, I remember the F-plan diet that was all the rage when I was a teenager. It extolled the virtues of adding more fibre to your diet and used it as part of a healthy eating plan that would help to keep you full for longer and therefore consume less calories.

I can't remember if I started eating wholemeal bread as a result of that book but I definitely didn't follow the diet. However, I did start to eat wholemeal bread in the eighties and discovered I liked it. In fact, I preferred it to white bread and still do by and large. We also eat beans and pulses fairly regularly, along with wholemeal pasta and brown rice.

This places us in a very small group of people because apparently, 90% of women don't regularly eat their GDA of fibre. I bet most of you don't even know what it is. It's 24g of fibre a day, which doesn't sound a lot, does it? We need fibre in our diets to promote a healthy digestive system and soluble fibre helps to keep your cholesterol levels down. And yes, it does help you to feel less hungry.

Recently, Warburtons asked me to take part in a three day analysis of our diets to see if we really do get enough fibre in our diet. Eek! I recorded a food diary for myself and Missy Woo for those three days and it was sent off to nutritionist Fiona Hunter to analyse. Her verdict was that we were both bang on target (The GDA for children aged 5 to 10 years is 15g by the way) and that my diet was a good balance of soluble fibre - in peas and oats - and insoluble fibre, mainly found in bread. That puts me in the 10% of women that does eat enough fibre. Nice to know that we are eating a fairly healthy diet in that respect - although I don't think we hit our target every single day but most of the time, which is good enough for me. I think we just got lucky that week.

Spicy bean burgers if you make them right!
Warburtons sent me out some products that help to boost the fibre in your diet, including Half and Half Toastie which the children like. They happily eat wholemeal but they like to eat white bread too - in fact, they stayed at their grandparents once and managed to convince them that they only ate white bread, so poor old Granddad had to go to the shop to buy some! Little monkeys. So a half and half bread - which looks white but has more fibre in it - is a good compromise. My favourite was the seeded batch but then I love seeds on my bread anyway.

They also sent me some fibre rich recipes, including one for spicy bean burgers which I royally messed up - I think I over-processed the beans and they went all gloopy. As I said though, I make dishes containing beans and pulses quite regularly - try this chilli, this soup or this dish from my own archives to help you boost your fibre intake without feeling like you're chewing on cardboard.

If you want to increase the fibre in your diet, Warburtons passed on some tips from Dr Hilary Jones about how to do it.

  • increase fibre slowly, adding no more than 5g per day until you reach your GDA. Personally, I'd increase it by 5g for a few days, then increase it again if you need to. 
  • drink more water as you increase your fibre intake. (Psst.. this helps prevent you getting "blocked" up!)
  • eat whole fruit and vegetable, as the skin contains fibre - like potato skins, apple peel etc. It's also better to eat whole fruits than juices or smoothies.
  • aim for 3 portions each day, so spread your fibre intake over three meals. How about healthy snacks like fruit, oatcakes, or some wholemeal toast? Eating wholemeal bread, pasta or rice would all increase your fibre intake without having to change your diet radically.
So, my question to you is - do you eat enough fibre and is eating enough of it a priority? Do you know how much you eat a day and does it meet the guideline amounts? Leave a comment below - and feel free to ask questions.

(Warburtons sent me a £20 voucher to try out some of their recipes and a selection of bread with higher fibre content. They also arranged for our food diary to be analysed by Fiona Hunter free of charge)
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