Wholegrains and fibre
Wholegrain foods are an important part of a healthy diet. They help to ensure a healthier digestive system and reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Wholegrain foods contain the outer layer of grain and are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Once this outer layer is removed in the refining process, these benefits are lost. This is why refined versions of the same food, like white bread, have fewer nutrients and less fibre, even if the manufacturers ‘enrich’ the product with added nutrients.
Wholegrain foods include:
- wholemeal bread, muffins, crispbread, pasta and crumpets
- wholegrain or whole-wheat breakfast cereals or muesli
- cracked wheat (bulgur)
- brown and wild rice
- quinoa (keen-wah).
What does fibre do?
Dietary fibre is not only great for our digestive health, but it also assists in the prevention of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Fibre helps to reduce cancer risk in four ways:
- Binds carcinogens to the stool and expels them from the body.
- Good bacteria in the colon convert fibre into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids reduce the ability of cells in the intestine to become cancerous.
- By helping us to feel fuller for longer, fibre plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Reducing absorption of carbohydrates into the blood reduces insulin resistance, therefore reducing risk of diabetes and some cancers.
Types of dietary fibre
There are three different types of fibre, all of which play a different role in our bodies.
Insoluble fibre is the hard and rough type, which is found in outer skins and surfaces of wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. It adds bulk to the contents in our digestive system, which helps to keep our bowels regular.
Soluble fibre is the soft and sticky type, which is found in the flesh of fruits and vegetables, as well as oats, dried beans and lentils. It forms a thick gel in our intestines which slows our digestion and helps to bind substances like glucose and lipids. In turn, this can help to control our blood glucose levels and lower our LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol.
Unlike most starch, resistant starch remains undigested until it reaches the large intestine. When it arrives here, it is fermented by friendly bacteria. This process produces gasses and is great for keeping the lining of the bowel healthy. We can find resistant starch in in oats and legumes, as well as rice and potatoes which have been cooked and then cooled.
How much do I need to eat?
Depending on your age and activity level, at least four serves of grain foods, mostly wholegrain or wholemeal foods every day (or ensure about half your daily serves of breads and cereals are wholegrain or wholemeal).
Recommended daily fibre intakes for adults:
- Men – 30g
- Women – 25g
Remember, when increasing your fibre intake, make sure to drink plenty of water. Eating enough fibre but not drinking enough water can cause constipation.
What is a serve?
- 1 slice of bread or 1/2 a medium roll or flat bread (40g)
- 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, buckwheat, bulgur or quinoa
- 1/2 cup cooked porridge, 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes or 1/4 cup muesli
- 1 crumpet or 1 small English muffin or scone
- 1/4 cup flour.
Find more information regarding how to increase fibre in your diet:
Easy Swaps to Boost Your Daily Intake
Did you know that almost 20 per cent of bowel cancers could be prevented if Australians met their dietary fibre requirements?1
Men should aim for 30g per day and women should aim for 25g. Follow these easy swaps to boost for fibre intake today!
Nagle, CM, Wilson, LF, Hughes, MC, Ibiebele, TI, Miura, K, Bain, CJ, Whiteman, DC, Webb, PM. Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to inadequate consumption of fruit, non-starchy vegetables and dietary fibre. Aust N Z J Public Health [Internet]. 2015 May [cited 2018, February 20]; 39: 422-428. Available from: 10.1111/1753-6405.12449
The average Australian is consuming about 5g less than the recommended daily intake of dietary fibre. Trying to get in that extra fibre? Try making these easy swaps to sneak a little extra into every meal.
Find the Fibre - How to read nutrition information panels
Nutrition information panels have to include the amount of energy, protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugar and sodium that is in the food. Some companies also choose to list the amount of dietary fibre.
What to look for?
When buying foods such as breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, noodles, couscous, and bread, have a look at the nutrition information panel to see how much dietary fibre the product contains. As a rule of thumb, aim for at least 2.5g per serve!
Can’t see a label?
Not all companies choose to show how much dietary fibre is in the product. If this is the case, opt for wholegrain or wholemeal varieties. Fresh fruits and vegetables, chickpeas, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds are all other great sources of dietary fibre.
Other handy hints:
- Eat the skin on your fruits and vegetables to get the most fibre out of your food.
- Eating whole fruits and vegetables is better for your gut than drinking the juice. If choosing juice, be sure to stir in the pulp or blend in whole fruits and vegetables.
- Start increasing your fibre intake one meal at a time to avoid bloating, wind and too many trips to the loo. Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.
Feed yourself more fibre: A tale of two Aussie blokes
Meet Scott and Dave. Same age, same job, same footy team... also, same nutrient requirements. Dave pays great attention to the food choices he makes. Trouble is, Scott doesn’t quite do the same.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Nutrient Reference Values [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2018 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients
Learn more about reducing your cancer risk with diet and exercise