We may often worry about how much salt or sugar we’re eating or how much fat we consume, but it appears we are not thinking enough about fibre. The latest research shows that 90% of adults have no idea how much fibre they should be eating, with more than 3/4 underestimating the amount, and just one in five increasing fibre consumption in the past 12 months. Nearly 2/3 of adults also don’t know fibre can help with heart health or managing cholesterol.
According to the Department of Health, our fibre RDA is 18g, yet the national diet and nutrition surveys show that on average we’re only eating about 13.9g per day. Now, potential reasons for the lack of fibre in our diets have been revealed in research by Wholegrain Goodness, a not-for-profit campaign which aims to educate consumers about the health and culinary benefits of wholegrain foods. As well as not knowing how much fibre we should be eating, the results also reveal that people have no idea about how much of this important nutrient is in different foods. This includes 83% thinking there’s less fibre in wholewheat spaghetti than there actually is. Nearly half also don’t realise that a bowl of porridge has more fibre than a bag of peanuts, a banana or a portion of boiled carrots, while more than one in ten incorrectly think there’s no fibre in an apple.
Confused About Wholegrain Foods
With talk of the fibre recommendation increasing by another 25%, current fibre intake would need to increase by a hefty 60% to reach the new target. The Department of Health recommend choosing wholegrains where you can, as they’re typically a good source of fibre in the diet, but the survey also revealed that many of us don’t know what wholegrain foods are either. 53% of the 2,000 adults questioned didn’t know that porridge is a wholegrain food and 87% have no idea popcorn is too. One in six mistakenly think baked beans are a wholegrain and more than one in five think poppy seeds are. One in ten even believed that apples were a wholegrain food. There’s currently no requirement to include fibre or wholegrain content on food labels, which may “add to the confusion,” said Wholegrain Goodness.
The not-for-profit campaign says when it comes to improving our diets, fibre simply seems to get neglected. The research reveals that 80% of respondents have not thought to increase their fibre intake in the past 12 months, preferring instead to cut down on sugar, fat or salt, or to increase exercise levels in order to stay healthy. It seems that many people are also unaware of the benefits to health that increasing fibre intakes can have. Nearly two thirds of people, for instance, are unaware of the benefits to heart health (64%), or managing cholesterol (65%). Meanwhile, four in ten men and one in four women are unaware of the beneficial role fibre can play in preventing constipation.
Increasing Our Fibre Consumption
Registered dietitian Therese Coleman said people’s lack of knowledge of fibre shown in the latest research is a “real shame” as increasing fibre consumption is “a dietary change we could all make.” She said foods rich in fibre, such as wholegrains and vegetables, can also help keep our digestive system in good health.
“Fibre is an important part of a balanced diet, but these results show that not only are we not eating enough, but we’re not sure how much or why we should be eating it or which foods we should be choosing,” Coleman said. “This is a real shame as increasing fibre consumption is such a positive ‘eat more’ dietary change we could all make. Wholegrain foods are typically higher in fibre and we’re advised to eat them, but as the survey reveals, consumers don’t know which foods are wholegrains. Foods rich in fibre, such as wholegrains, certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and potatoes with their skins on, can keep us fuller for longer, as well as keep our digestive system in good health.”
Wholegrain Goodness is an independent, not-for-profit campaign launched by HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. For more information about Wholegrain Goodness, visit: www.wholegraingoodness.hgca.com.