Who remembers the days when fibre was called roughage? Those were probably the days before the famous F-Plan diet when human flatulence was endangering the ozone layer. I guess the R-Diet didn’t have such a catchy ring to it. But call it what you will, with today’s popular low carb diets, our fibre consumption is scarily low. And according to experts, it’s the sugar backlash that’s one of the reasons why people are eating less fibre!
Sugar is the big bad wolf. It’s so bad for us that the Government taxed it in a move to reduce our consumption. We won’t mention that we’re now ingesting a load more damaging chemical sweeteners, though. We’ll save that one for another day.
So what’s the problem? Isn’t cutting down on sugar a good thing? Yes. It obviously is, but there’s sugar, and then there’s sugar. A can of soft drink that’s loaded with the stuff is clearly not good for you. But healthy foods like fresh fruit also contain sugar – known as fructose.
Many drinks and things like corn syrup also contain fructose and this, in large quantities, is bad for your liver. If you knock back a drink laden with fructose it is absorbed into your system quickly. Your liver can’t cope and in the long term, it will cause damage. But when you eat an apple, which also contains fructose, it is a much slower process which eliminates the problem. Because you have to chew the apple and it takes longer to eat, your liver is able to process it. In bite size pieces. Literally.
I can see this blog is ready to take off at a tangent here and become all about sugar when I really wanted to talk about fibre. So I’ll tell you what. Visit this article on the Healthline website. It explains all about fructose and your liver far better than I ever can.
So let’s get back on track. Ignoring the fact few of us actually eat the recommended five-a-day, many people have turned to trendy low carb diets to reduce their sugar consumption. But that has a knock-on effect. When you cut out the carbs, you’re also cutting out the essential fibre that we need so badly.
Fibre is essential to our well-being. Years ago, it was thought that fibre had no dietary value. It was just ‘bulk’ that helped our digestive systems work more efficiently (and gave us wind). The reality is, fibre is good for your heart and has a wealth of other benefits. It helps prevent strokes, bowel cancer and type-2 diabetes. Fibre is good for your blood pressure and helps reduce cholesterol levels. And as an added bonus, it helps keep weight down too.
Good news, eh? There’s another BUT coming here… experts are now telling us that we should be eating 30g of fibre a day. And the bottom line is… that’s not easily done. If you like a big breakfast, 20 Weetabix a day would do it. If you don’t fancy that, 15 potatoes with their skins on would work (why do they never tell you what size potatoes?). Or how about 7 or 8 apples?
None of those suggestions are realistic, of course. But you can add fibre to your diet quite easily without OD-ing on Weetabix. Try opting for brown rice and wholewheat pasta instead of white. Eat brown bread, or better still go for wholemeal seeded, or granary types of bread. Sprinkle some nuts on your salad. Toss some chick peas or lentils in your casseroles and curries. They not only add fibre, they are also tasty and low-cost. Check the labels on your breakfast cereals. The fibre level can vary from brand to brand. Try a sprinkle of oatmeal on your potatoes and vegetables. Put your mind to it, and I’m sure you can come up with some ingenious ways to increase your fibre intake. Why not share them with us here? We’re always keen to hear your good ideas.
But finally, have a heart. Give up the low carb diets and take a sensible approach to eating. The results of 85 studies and 58 clinical trials suggest that for every thousand people eating low fibre diets, there will be 13 more deaths and 6 people will develop heart disease. That’s got to be the best argument for a high fibre diets I’ve heard. Pass me those carrots please.