You’re probably aware that dietary fibre can help to promote a healthy digestive system, but did you know that a high fibre diet is also beneficial for your heart health?
There are two types of dietary fibre – insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre helps keep things flowing in your gut and reduces your risk of bowel cancer. Soluble fibre plays a key role in heart health as it encourages friendly bacteria in the gut to thrive and helps to lower levels of total and LDL -‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood.
Additionally, high fibre foods typically have a low glycaemic index, meaning that they release energy more slowly leaving you feeling full for longer. This means you are less likely to munch on extra snacks between meals which will help keep that waist in check and help to control blood sugar levels, protecting you from insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The recommendation for fibre intake has recently been increased to 30 grams of fibre a day. With the average UK fibre intake at 18g per day however most people don’t get enough.
Getting enough fibre from your diet isn’t difficult providing you choose your foods wisely. Follow Heart Research UK’s easy fibre-boosting tips to add more heart-healthy roughage to your daily meals:
Start your day with wholegrain cereal or porridge as a 40g portion of porridge oats contains 3.6g of fibre. What’s more, research shows that eating between two to four portions of oat-based products such as cereals, bread or crackers can help lower cholesterol levels.
Unsalted nuts, dried fruits and seeds make great fibre-rich snacks. One handful of prunes or dried apricots contains about 3.5 g of fibre, or munch on a handful of walnuts or almonds, which are also packed with heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, to top up your fibre intake.
Get friendly with ‘wholemeal’ and ‘wholegrain’ options such as wholemeal bread or wraps for your sandwiches, also readily available on the high street, or wholemeal pasta for lunch-pot dishes. Two slices of wholemeal bread contains around 5 g of fibre and if you use seeded wholemeal bread it bumps up to 11 g.
Five-a-day is a colourful and delicious way to boost your fibre intake. Make your lunch interesting by adding beetroot, avocado, soya beans or kale to your salad. A small avocado has 3.4 g of fibre and more soluble fibre than any other fruit.
Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds are excellent source of fibre as well as plant omega-3 fats, so get creative by sprinkling them on cereal, soups or in salads.
Try non-meat protein alternatives for dinner such as beans and lentils which are a good source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre. Kidney beans and black beans also make a tasty addition to stews and soups. Cooked chickpeas can be great in salads, curries or blended to make hummus with two to three heaped tablespoons providing a whopping 9g of fibre and a jacket potato with baked beans contains 10 g of fibre.
Go for brown rice, or at least half brown-half white and vary your rice dishes by adding quinoa or bulgur wheat to up the fibre even more. Use wholemeal flour for baking and when making sauces or occasional treats like pies and fruit crumbles. Try being more creative when making chapattis, naan and bread by using different flour like spelt or millet.
Put the ‘F’ factor in your diet with some heart-friendly fibre-rich foods. Bulk up and go the unrefined way to keep your gut, heart and cholesterol levels firmly in the healthy zone.
More healthy heart tips are available from our charity partner Heart Research UK