Grains need raised awareness as good health triggers
Despite being the hallmark of healthy eating, dietary fibre rarely captivates the public’s attention. However, a new study challenges common perceptions and bolsters the case for fibre to be recognised as a leading health-promoting component of food.
Found only in plant foods, dietary fibres are carbohydrates that are not digested in the small intestine and pass into the large bowel, where they are partially, or completely, fermented by the bacteria living in the digestive system.
PhD candidate and lead author of the new study Stacey Fuller says evidence has shown time and time again that people who eat higher-fibre diets experience greater digestive wellbeing and reduced risk of specific cancers, heart disease, diabetes and obesity – some of the biggest causes of death and disability in Australia.
Co-author Associate Professor Eleanor Beck, of the University of Wollongong, says that people generally understand that fibre is important for digestive health. However, there is a lack of understanding of the additional and wide-ranging benefits of fibre for disease risk reduction and, as a result, there is a lack of appreciation of the importance of eating a variety of high-fibre foods as part of a balanced diet.
“Our review demonstrates that different types of fibres, from different foods, have the potential to act in different ways to help to reduce cholesterol levels, support healthy blood glucose levels after meals, reduce blood pressure, feed healthy bacteria in the bowel, avoid weight gain and improve absorption of some nutrients,” Associate Professor Beck says.
“The long-term health benefits of higher-fibre diets are likely the outcome of these cumulative effects over time.”
When it comes to eating adequate fibre, the most recent National Nutrition Survey highlights that grain foods are the leading source of fibre in the Australian diet, yet the 2014 Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Survey showed that Australians are much less likely to identify grains (and legumes) as sources of dietary fibre than fruit and vegetables.
To enjoy the health benefits of a wide range of dietary fibres, Australians are encouraged to eat a variety of fibre-rich plant foods including grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (Table 1) as part of a balanced diet.
|Types of fibre
||Source|| Health benefits
|Arabinoxylan||Most whole grains, legumes, vegetables
|Supports healthy blood glucose levels|
|Pectin||Legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds||Helps reduce cholesterol reabsorption
Improves bowel health
|ß-Glucans||Barley and oats||Supports healthy blood glucose levels
Helps reduce cholesterol reabsorption
|Fructans||Barley, wheat, rye and some fruits and vegetables||Improves bowel health|
|Raffinose||Legumes||Improves bowel health|
|Resistant starch||Whole grains and legumes||Improves absorption of nutrients
More information:Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council
GRDC Project Code GOG00009