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Updated 23 August 2013

8 misconceptions about fibre

The benefits of a high-fibre diet are well-documented, and yet people around the world are not getting enough fibre in their daily diet.

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There are many myths surrounding dietary fibre, with one shocking certainty: people around the world are not getting enough fibre in their daily diet. Existing literature indicates that most South Africans are in fact taking in 60% or less than the recommended fibre intake.

The benefits of a high-fibre diet are well documented - improving digestive well-being and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases in the long term. One of the barriers to increasing fibre intake may be the lurking fibre myths which discourage people from focusing on higher fibre foods.

Kellogg’s Nutrition and Public Affairs Manager and Registered Dietitian Linda Drummond has shared these fibre facts to clear up some common misconceptions about fibre:

The role of fibre in a balanced and healthy diet has been established over years

People have known the health benefits of fibre for centuries and in fact many people have argued that it could quite possibly be the original super-food. For example, as early as 4th century BC the "father of medicine", Hippocrates, first championed the health benefits of wheat bran to assist in keeping the large intestine healthy. Since then, through the centuries, renowned physicians and nutrition experts have been advocating cereal fibre for its health benefits.

It is better to reach your daily fibre requirements through food-sources of fibre, rather than fibre supplements

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily fibre intake of at least 25g per day for adults. This requirement can be met by taking small steps to increasing food sources of fibre each day.

To meet the daily recommendation, choose a high-fibre breakfast every morning, eat at least five servings from the fruit and vegetables group each day and replace animal protein sources with a vegetable source such as beans or legumes regularly. 

Fibre–rich foods offer additional intrinsic nutrient benefits over and above their fibre content, such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The naturally occurring combination of these nutrients can never be perfectly replicated or manufactured. Despite fibre supplements being available on the market, experts agree that when looking for particular nutrients, such as fibre, food sources are the best choice.

Not all fibres are created equal


There are many different types of fibre from different food sources which play unique roles in the body, contributing to overall well-being.

Wheat bran, composed mostly of insoluble fibre, is the most effective cereal fibre to promote regularity. Apples, barley, carrots, legumes and oats are rich in soluble fibre, which has a cholesterol-lowering effect. 

Other benefits of a high-fibre diet include helping you to achieve normal blood sugar levels and to assist in the maintenance of a healthy body weight.  By including a variety of different sources and types of fibre in your diet, it is possible to improve the functioning of several functions of the body. 

Regular fibre intake is not just beneficial for people suffering from constipation or other digestive issues

The benefits of regular and adequate fibre intake has nutrition experts all over the world agreeing that most carbohydrate-based foods eaten on a daily basis should be a source of fibre.

In fact, the South African Guidelines for Healthy Eating, which provide nutrition messages to the general public, recommend that everyone should have a fibre intake of at least 25g per day to ensure healthy functioning of the gut, as well as decreased risk for lifestyle associated chronic diseases.

A diet high in fibre does not cause bloating and winds

Increasing the intake of fibre (particularly wheat bran fibre) prevents food from lingering in the digestive system, which can cause you to feel bloated and uncomfortable. By absorbing water and creating bulk, fibre speeds up the passage of food through your system, helping to prevent constipation.

  • Fibre helps keep food moving through the digestive system and plays a bulking role so that undigested food can be more easily eliminated.
  • Fibre plays a vital role in helping keep the walls of the digestive tract healthy.
  • A high fibre diet can help to reduce that bloated feeling.

When beginning to increase your fibre intake, do so slowly to allow your body to become accustomed to the change. This will help to ensure that you do not experience bloating with a sudden increase in fibre intake. 

There are risks associated with following a low-carbohydrate diet

One of the risks of following a low-carbohydrate diet is that it would be even more difficult to meet one’s fibre requirements, as the major sources of fibre are also sources of carbohydrate.

By not meeting one’s fibre requirements, there is a risk that you may experience digestive discomfort and constipation, as well as an increased chance of developing chronic diseases in the long term.

Unlike other nutrients, there is no upper limit to fibre intake

Other nutrients like vitamins and minerals have an upper limit, meaning that when eaten in high quantities, these nutrients can cause toxicity. Fibre does not have an upper limit.

Wheat bran fibre is the best cereal fibre to promote regularity.

This has been proven by 80 years of independent research. 

Kellogg’s South Africa press release

 
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