6 facts about fibre mums should know
If you don’t know how much dietary fibre is required to maintain a healthy diet, you aren’t alone. Two thirds of consumers don’t know how much dietary fibre they need to eat each day and one in four GPs don’t even know the recommended daily fibre intake for adults, according to a study commissioned by Kellogg called Are Wholegrains Really The Holy Grail.
What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is found in the indigestible parts of plants. Good sources of fibre include wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables. Drinking lots of fluid is also important to avoid constipation.The main role of fibre is to keep the digestive system healthy. Fibre has also been shown to benefit diabetes, blood cholesterol levels and weight control. Dietary fibre is found in cereals, fruits and vegetables. Fibre is made up of the indigestible parts or compounds of plants, which pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines. The main role of fibre is to keep the digestive system healthy.
Other terms for dietary fibre include ‘bulk’ and ‘roughage’, which can be misleading since some forms of fibre are water soluble and aren’t bulky or rough at all.
Fibre fact 1: fibre is usually a carbohydrate
Fibre is largely a carbohydrate. The building blocks of all carbohydrates are different types of sugars and they can be classified according to how many sugar molecules are combined in the carbohydrate:
- Simple sugars - consist of 1-2 sugar molecules; for example glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose and lactose.
- Oligosaccharides - consist of 3-10 glucose molecules joined together.
- Starch polysaccharides - have more than 10 glucose molecules joined together.
- Non-starch polysaccharides - have more than 10 sugar molecules; for example xylose, arabinose and mannose.
Fibre fact 2: Fibre keeps the digestive system healthy
Dietary fibre is mainly needed to keep the digestive system healthy. It also contributes to other processes, such as stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels. In countries with traditionally high fibre diets, diseases such as bowel cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease are much less common than in the West.
Fibre fact 3: More people need to understand the importance of a high fibre diet
A leading international nutritionist from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, Professor Joanne Slavin says fibre seems to have become the forgotten nutrient in our diets.
Wholegrains contain all parts of the grain – the bran (fibre-rich outer layer), the germ (nutrient rich inner core) and the endosperm (the middle layer of starch and protein). As there is often confusion about the definition of what a wholegrain is, many studies have combined both whole grains and high fibre bran products when assessing health benefits, making it difficult to identify which one is actually driving these benefits.
Fibre fact 4: People get confused by wholegrains and fibre
“Not all wholegrain foods are the same - there is great variability in the nutrient content, especially the fibre levels. For example, whole wheat has nearly four times the fibre content of brown rice,” Professor Slavin said.
Wholegrain foods contain all the components of the grain - the bran, germ and endosperm. The grains may be whole, cracked or milled.
Wholegrains that have been milled to a finer texture rather than leaving the grain intact become wholemeal. Wholemeal contains all the components of the grain, therefore wholemeal foods are also wholegrain. Wholemeal bread and rye bread are typical examples of products made with wholemeal.
“Both wholegrains and fibre have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and higher intakes of fibre and wholegrains have also been linked to lower body weight and less weight gain over time,” the professor says.
Fibre fact 5: Fruit and vegetables a good source of fibre
After fruit and vegetables, doctors tend to recommend high fibre breakfast cereals to boost fibre intake.
Senior Nutrition Manager at Kellogg, Julie Howden said, "You can get up to 40 per cent of your daily fibre intake from high fibre breakfast cereals and people should look for foods which contains at least six grams of fibre per serve."
Fibre fact 6: The recommended fibre intakes
The recommended daily intake of fibre for adults is 38 grams for men and 28 grams for women. Read more here about recommended fibre intake for children.The Cancer Council now recommends at least half our daily bread, cereals and pasta choices should be wholegrain. This means we should eat at least two serves of wholegrain foods every day. A standard serve is equal to:
- 2 slices wholemeal or mixed grain bread
- 1 wholemeal crumpet
- 1 wholemeal or mixed grain English muffin
- 1 wholemeal or mixed grain bread roll
- 4-6 wholegrain or wholemeal crispbread
- 1&1/3 cups of whole-wheat or 'high fibre' breakfast cereal flakes
- 1 cup of cooked porridge
- ½ cup of muesli
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 cup cooked wholemeal pasta
Read more about kid's fibre and nutritional needs:
- All about breakfast
- Carbohydrates for breakfast
- 6 facts about fibre
- Foods high in fibre
- How much fibre does my child need?
- Why fibre is fabulous
- Kids' nutritional needs
Ready Set Learn
This article was written by Alex Brooks for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading education resource from sources including Better Health , Kellogg's and Go grains.