The Forgotten Nutrient


Kate Taylor, Associate registered nutritionist and fitness coach

I’m concerned.

I’m worried about a certain nutrient that people forget about.

I am frequently asked about carbs and if I recommend cutting them out. There is a widespread fear of carbohydrates, and a subsequent lower intake of them by many people. Refer to my post earlier this month and you’ll find that we need them for energy, they break down into sugar which is our prime source as a human. But that’s not my main concern. The body is quite smart and it can break down other macronutrients to use for energy when it needs to.


My main concern is fibre.


You see, we can only obtain fibre from food, and the majority of foods that contain it are also sources of carbohydrates. There are two types, soluble and insoluble, and both play a major role in digestion, as well as heart health, weight management and type 2 diabetes. So why the bloody hell are we inadvertently focussing on cutting it from our diets!

Snacking is a prime example. The health food industry is currently overloaded with alternative snacking products, protein bars, protein balls, insects (yep they are on the rise) and jerky type dried meats. A key theme is that many of them are focussed around protein. It seems our obsession with protein could be at the expense of other vital nutrients. And this is never likely to be a good thing.

The average UK adult only gets about 18g of fibre per day, well short of the recommended intake of 30g. And with all the health benefits, we need to pay more attention to getting enough. Fibre is associated with –

  1. Good bowel health, lower risk of being constipated – which if we think about could be one of the main reasons why so many people are feeling bloated – it’s something I commonly hear from clients. FIBRE!
  2. Lower cholesterol and subsequent lower risk of heart disease (1, 2)
  3. Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (shown in a study which compared high fibre diets to those lower in fibre and higher in refined sugar – this could also be down to the fact a more balanced diet was adopted as a whole and reductions in BMI could be a contributing factor) (3, 4)

According to Mintel in 2013 porridge continues to be a staple breakfast (around 25% of us consume it daily) and with oats a vital fibre source, let’s hope that continues. But bread sales are on the decline, and the free from market is on the rise. And when you look at how they compare when it comes to fibre, the story is not so great –

1 slice of rye bread – 2g

1 slice of gluten free bread – 0g

And without trying to preach about fruit and veg, please keep the skin ON (and as long as its edible, we don’t need to resort to eating banana skins just yet). Many vegetables are a great source of fibre, and keeping in line with the fact that as a nation we don’t consume enough, many of us really need to work on eating a few more. The likes of cauliflower rice can be good for digestion, and for your fibre intake. 100g has roughly the same amount of fibre as brown rice or a baked potato. (although it is not and will never be rice – I guess the named finely chopped cauli just doesn’t have the same ring to it)

So what does all this mean? Well, if you are deciding to lower your intake of mainstream carbs. you absolutely must not forget about fibre. Oh, and don’t forget to increase your water at the same time.


Good sources:

Whole fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, oats, rye, wholegrain bread, pasta or rice, cereals without added sugar like bran.

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  1. Pereira MA, O’Reilly E, Augustsson K, et al. Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:370-6.
  2. Rimm EB, Ascherio A, Giovannucci E, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Vegetable, fruit, and cereal fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. JAMA. 1996;275:447-51.
  3. Fung TT, Hu FB, Pereira MA, et al. Whole-grain intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:535-40.
  4. Schulze MB, Liu S, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and dietary fiber intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:348-56.