Health, Wellbeing & medcine

How to pack fibre into your diet

My grandparents always had a box of All-Bran on the breakfast table. It’s a cereal that’s gone out of fashion. But maybe we should learn to love it again. For bran is one of the best sources of fibre we can get – and it turns out that fibre is something that we’re just not getting enough of.

I’ve been writing a lot about the benefits of a low carb diet. It is especially thought to help head off and even reverse type 2 diabetes.

But this week we heard that we should be aiming to eat 30g of fibre every day – far more than most of us manage.

This is confusing news for those of us who’ve ditched all things carby in an effort to lose weight – but it seems we have been throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Yes, we do need to cut right back on carbs such as croissants, white bread, pasta, rice, cakes, pizza etc – but we should be loading our plates with pulses and wholegrains – on top of the obligatory fruit and vegetables. And even when we do this we may struggle to reach the recommended 30g that is said to protect against bowel cancer, heart disease, and – confusingly – type 2 diabetes…

If I try to imagine a fibre-rich day, it features porridge for breakfast, two slices of wholemeal bread with salad for lunch, and a massive helping of stir-fried veg and brown rice for supper. This could add up to nearly 30g of fibre – if my stir-fry includes a whole head of broccoli. More if I have a huge helping of hummus with my lunch.

The British Nutrition Foundation suggests the following day’s food:

Meal Food Quantity Fibre content (g)
Breakfast       Bran flakes 40g 8
  1 banana, sliced 100g 1.5
Snack Apple 100g 2.4
Lunch Baked beans 150g 6.8
  wholemeal toast (2 slices) 70g 4.7
Dinner Baked potato with skin, tuna mayonnaise 180g 6.5
  Salad (lettuce, tomato and cucumber) 138g 1.7
  Low fat yogurt 150g 0
  with strawberries 100g 1.5
  and chopped almonds 13g 1.3
Total     34.4

Some of the foods with the highest fibre content include wholewheat pasta (8.3g per portion), red kidney beans (13g per portion), and chickpeas (9.4g). Find a delicious way to combine these and you’ve got your day’s fibre in one meal. My vote goes to a middle eastern style spicy aubergine and pulse stew served with wholewheat orzo.

Spicy aubergine, bean and chickpea stew

Chop an aubergine into small wedges and fry these (in rapeseed oil) in batches. Set to one side.

Finely chop and fry one medium onion. When it’s softening, add a handful of finely chopped celery, 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger, and half a red chilli (this is the larger type that’s not so hot), finely chopped. Lastly add two cloves of garlic (crushed). Stir and fry a couple of minutes longer, until soft. This should be on a low heat to prevent burning. Next add a pinch each of dried chilli flakes, cumin, cinnamon, and smoked paprika. The size of the pinches may vary according to your palate. Keep tasting!

Add two tins of chopped tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes until it’s looking more like a sauce. Add the juice of half a lemon, and a few slivers of lemon zest. Season with salt (I used lemon salt). Now add the cooked aubergine pieces and a tin each of chick peas and kidney beans (drained). Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to check it’s not sticking.

Check the seasoning again before serving with wholewheat orzo.

Serves four.