The doctor often recommends that I should eat more fibre. Is fibre important in my diet?

Fibre also means roughage; and yes, it is important. Most people associate roughage with bran but there are many foods which serve the same purpose (see Table 9.3). Starchy foods have the advantage that they are filling without providing a lot of calories. Fibre passes through the bowel without being absorbed into your body and lowers cholesterol by reducing fatty foods in your diet. This type of fibre, known as soluble fibre (see question below), is effective in lowering cholesterol, if enough is eaten. It binds with bile salts from

Table 9.3 Foods and fibre content

High fibre foods Low fibre foods

Wholegrain cereals (branflakes, muesli, porridge, wheat biscuits)

Plain and frosted rice cereals, cornflakes, Special K

Breads (wholewheat, granary, rye, wholewheat pitta)

White bread and rolls

Brown rice, pearl barley, bulgur wheat

White rice

Pasta (wholewheat)

Pasta (white)

Wholewheat crispbread, crisprolls

White biscuits and crackers (water biscuits)

Popcorn, Twiglets, wholewheat breadsticks

Cheese Puffs, Hula Hoops, pretzels, Quavers

Wholewheat and oatmeal biscuits (especially with dried fruit)

Rich tea biscuits, shortbread, wafers

Wholemeal scones, fruited teabreads

Pastries, cakes

the liver, which are full of cholesterol, and prevents them from being absorbed. At the same time, by absorbing water like a sponge, it gives a full-up feeling. Soluble fibre-rich foods include:

• pulse vegetables, e.g. peas, beans and lentils;

• fruit, e.g. bananas, apples, berries and citrus fruits; and

• oat cereals (not wheat).

The average person eats 15-20 g of fibre a day and this needs to be increased to over 25 g. As fibre is increased in the diet, it becomes important to drink plenty of fluids so that the swelling action can be achieved. Increase the fibre content gradually to give your digestive system a chance to adjust.

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre? Should I eat both?

Insoluble fibre is important for digestion and taking it with fluid helps to prevent constipation and other bowel problems. Soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol. Insoluble fibre is found in wholegrain and wholemeal foods (wholemeal bread, granary bread, brown rice, wholemeal or wholegrain flour and wholewheat breakfast cereals). A mixed diet of both types of fibre will keep you regular and lower your cholesterol.

When I am in the supermarket, I get confused as to which foods are best for fibre content. Can you tell me more about which contain more fibre?

No increase fibre is not difficult. Aim to eat two items from this list

each mealtime:

• wholemeal bread or wholemeal chapattis or pitta bread;

• wholegrain cereal (bran, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, porridge);

• baked potatoes (and eat the skins) instead of fried;

• wholegrain pasta and brown rice;

• fruit (particularly apples, pears, bananas): fruit is also low in calories and rich in vitamins and antioxidants (see the section Risks of high cholesterol levels in Chapter 2);

• dried fruit, e.g. raisins;

• vegetables (particularly root vegetables, e.g. carrots, turnips, parsnips; and green vegetables, e.g. sprouts, cabbage, broccoli): vegetables are also low in calories and rich in vitamins and antioxidants (see the section Risks of high cholesterol levels in Chapter 2);

• pulses: peas, beans, lentils, sweetcorn, baked beans, chickpeas;

• nuts: walnuts, chestnuts (but be careful, all nuts have a high calorie content).

Try to use wholemeal flour rather than white when you are baking, or a mixture. Table 9.3 gives a list of high versus low fibre foods.

I know that vegetables are good for me because they contain fibre and vitamins. I have heard that boiling vegetables loses the vitamins. How should I prepare fruit and vegetables to get the maximum benefits from them?

Many vitamins are lost in storage and on exposure to oxygen in the air. Buy (or pick) little and often and prepare just before you eat them. Leave the skin on where possible. Eat vegetables raw, or by steaming, stir-frying or microwaving. If you boil your vegetables, boil quickly in the minimum of water in a tightly covered pan and serve immediately. Use the cooking water for stock or gravy. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh and can be quick to prepare, convenient and economical.

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