The one nutrient you need to help reduce your risk of chronic disease

What’s the one nutrient you need to help reduce your risk of chronic disease?

It’s good old fibre, and it has proven — time and again — that it’s the one’s nutrient you need to help prevent many common chronic diseases.

Despite its importance, Australians aren’t getting enough, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey of 2011-12 revealing an alarming one in every two people not meeting their required fibre intake. In face, most aren’t eating enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains, which may explain the low fibre intake.

While fruit and vegetables play an important role in providing valuable fibre, it’s the grain fibres that are most effective for preventing the onset of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Grain fibres also improve bowel health and are effective for managing weight through their satiating effect.

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To achieve optimum health benefits it is important to consume a balance of different fibres, of which there are three main types.

Achieving a balance of fibres is simple. First, aim to get about 25-30g of fibre each day. Then follow this basic rule of thumb:

  • 2 serves of whole fruit, preferably with skin
  • 5 serves of vegetables
  • 4-6 serves of grains, preferably high fibre or whole grain
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  • 1 serve of nuts or legumes.
  • This way you can ensure you are getting the three main types of fibre.

    1. Soluble fibre that helps to reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels. It is found in fruits, vegetables and grains such as oats and barley. It can also be found in psyllium, beans and seeds.

    2. Insoluble fibre, which resists digestion and travels into your colon where it helps to make your toilet visits more frequent and easier. You can find this type of fibre in the bran of grains and in fruit and vegetable skins.

    3. Fermentable fibre that feeds all the little bugs in the intestine, which helps to keep a balanced digestive system. The bugs then produce compounds that protect your bowel. This type of fibre can be found in legumes (beans and chickpeas), cooked cold potatoes or rice, unripe bananas, cereal grains and onions.

    One of the easiest ways to add fibre to your diet is at breakfast time. Just one bowl of a high fibre bran cereal can provide as much as 13g fibre, two slices of wholemeal bread or a cup of oats contain 4g of fibre each. Adding fruit, nuts or seeds provides additional fibre and other nutrients. Give it a go, it’s easier than you think!

    Do you get enough fibre in your diet?