08 July 2019
Are you getting enough fibre?
Healthy living with Natalie von Bertouch
Natalie von Bertouch is a dietitian, and Community Education Project Officer at Cancer Council SA.
Did you know that a fibre-rich diet is one of the best ways to reduce your bowel cancer risk?
Bowel cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the country, and in 2015, it caused 442 deaths in South Australia alone. But almost 20 per cent of cases could be prevented if Australians met their recommended dietary fibre intake.
What is dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre is the part of plant foods that can’t be digested by the stomach or small intestine. Instead, it passes relatively unchanged to the large intestine. Here, it’s fermented by friendly gut bacteria, and this is the process that boosts your gut health and reduces your cancer risk. Fibre supplements don’t seem to have the same beneficial effects, but they are useful in some circumstances—check with your doctor.
Good sources of dietary fibre include:
- vegetables and fruits (particularly the skins)
- nuts and seeds
- wholemeal or wholegrain bread and pasta
- couscous, quinoa and brown rice
- high-fibre cereals, muesli and oats
How dietary fibre cuts your cancer risk
Fibre binds carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) to the stool, expelling them from the body.
When fibre passes through the colon, it encounters good bacteria which convert it into short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids make it harder for cells in the intestine to become cancerous.
Fibre helps us feel fuller for longer. That means it plays a key role in helping us to maintain a healthy weight, which we know is a great way to prevent cancer in the future.
And finally, fibre helps reduce the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood, which in turn reduces insulin resistance—meaning lower risk of diabetes and some cancers.
So there’s plenty to gain from introducing more fibre into your diet, and it doesn’t have to be hard.
How you can boost your dietary fibre intake
Every day, men should be eating 30 g of fibre, and women should be eating 25 g.
There are plenty of ways you can up your dietary fibre intake, without drastically changing your meals.
Make some easy swaps to your favourite meals, like switching out white bread for wholegrain.
Start the day off right by sprinkling seeds and chopped fruit onto your brekky.
Eat whole fruits and veggies (rather than juiced), with the skin on.
Keep some high-fibre snacks at your desk, like carrot sticks with hummus, grainy crackers and peanut butter, or dried or fresh fruit.
For some delicious, fibre rich recipes including our beetroot, pear and lentil salad, check out our recipe catalogue.