Easy ways to eat more fibre to improve your health

We all know that fibre is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet, helping us to maintain a well-functioning digestive system and stay fuller for longer. Eating enough fibre can also help ward off illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes – two diseases of epidemic proportions in India.

Fighting (health) fires with fibre 

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 463 million people have diabetes in the world; 77 million of those belong to India. The information for the year 2020 estimated the prevalence of diabetes at 8.9% among the Indian population. When it comes to cardiovascular ailments, a study reported that heart disease has caused more than 2.1 million deaths in India in 2015 at all ages. This accounts for over a quarter of all deaths. The study noted that in the age group of people from 30-69 years, of 1.3 million cardiovascular deaths, 0.9 million (68.4%) were caused by coronary heart disease. 28% or 0.4 million (28.0%) were caused by a stroke. It is important to do all you can to avoid these deadly lifestyle diseases – getting enough fibre into your diet is a simple and effective step.

It can be hard to know how to make sure we’re getting enough of it – particularly as evidence suggests most children and adults are falling below the recommended daily intake of 15-25g for children (scaled by age) and 30g for adults. From the health benefits of fibre to delicious recipes, read our guide on all things high fibre.

What is fibre?

Fibre is the term we use for the parts of plant foods that are indigestible. It comes from things like vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans and grains, rather than any animal products. You might also hear it referred to as ‘roughage’. 

Health benefits of fibre 

Fibre plays an important role in keeping our digestive systems healthy, and studies suggest it can also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes. The three different types of fibre all have different functions:

Resistant starch – helps us produce good bacteria and promotes bowel health in our large intestine. 

Soluble fibre – helps keep us feeling full by slowing down the process of emptying our stomachs, while also stabilising blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. 

Insoluble fibre – absorbs water, which helps support regular bowel movements and also helps keep us feeling fuller for longer.  

Top fibre foods

It’s important to get your fibre from lots of different sources. Luckily, it’s found in loads of affordable everyday ingredients. Some top fibre foods include wholewheat chapatis and rice, rolled oats, rajma (kidney beans), broccoli, carrots (unpeeled), bananas, dals (lentils), apples and sweet potatoes. An easy way to prioritise getting enough fibre is to make sure you always choose wholewheat carbohydrates over alternatives (think brown bread with seeds rather than white bread), and to incorporate key grains such as oats into your breakfast routine. Making sure you get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily also makes a difference, particularly if you focus on high fibre options. Don’t forget to add a salad to lunch and dinner too.

High fibre recipe ideas

With so many ingredients to choose from, the options are endless for delicious fibre-packed dishes. Here are a few of our favourite high fibre recipe ideas to get you started. 

Breakfast

Kick-start your day the right way with a healthy dose of fibre from a jowar and vegetable porridge – loaded with carrots, french beans and peas. Or make broken wheat (dahlia) upma with carrots and green peas. Oats with fruits, nuts and milk (any dairy or nut milk will do) can be a good quick alternative for a fibre-packed morning meal. 

Lunch

Keep warm on cold days with a nourishing bowl of spicy dal palak (lentils and spinach) with brown rice. A fun meal for kids can be a baked sweet potato with homemade baked beans and cheese. For something a little lighter, try a mixed vegetable bhaji with chapati made with wholewheat atta or a quick veggie stir fry with multigrain bread. 

Dinner

There are plenty of fibre-rich dinner dishes that are healthy and delicious. A cauliflower and paneer sabzi is satisfying and packed with fibre. Diabetes can benefit from adding karela to their vegetable dishes. Experiment with bajra and jowar flours to make rotis that increase your fibre intake. If you love pasta and breads, always choose wholewheat varieties and pack your pasta sauces with vegetables like brinjal and pumpkin.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16407729

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/

https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/more-evidence-that-fibre-cuts-bowel-cancer-risk/

https://www.diabetesqld.org.au/media-centre/2018/april/fibre-and-t2-diabetes-more-than-just-keeping-you-regular.aspx

https://www.nutritionaustralia.org/sites/default/files/Fibre-2014.pdf