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The lifesaving food 90% aren't eating enough of

Image copyrightGetty Images Image captionIs there anything in your cupboard that could extend your life?                 Naturally it reduces the chances…

 Opening a kitchen cupboard containing storage jars

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Is there anything in your cupboard that could extend your life?

Naturally it reduces the chances of debilitating heart attacks and strokes as well as life-long diseases such as type-2 diabetes. 1

9659007] And it helps keep your weight down, blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.

I should mention it is cheap and widely available in the supermarket

What is it?

Fiber – it’s not the sexiest thing in the world but a major study has been investigating how much fiber we really need to eat and found there are huge health benefits.

“The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it “One of the researchers, Prof John Cummings, tells BBC News.

It’s well known for stopping constipation – but its health benefits are much broader than that.

How much fiber do we need?

The researchers at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, and the University of Dundee say people should be eating a minimum of 25g or fiber per day.

But they call this “adequate” amount for improving health and say there are benefits for pushing past 30g (1oz).

Is that all?

Well, a banana on its own weighs about 120g but that’s not pure fiber. Strip out everything else including all the natural sugars and water, and you’re left with only about 3g or fibers.

Most people around the world are eating less than 20g of fiber a day.

And in the UK, less than one in 10 adults eats 30g or fiber daily.

On average, women consume about 17g, and 21g, a day.

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Fiber is present in fruits, vegetables, wholegrain bread, pasta and lentils

What other foods have more fiber in them?

You find it in fruit and vegetables, some breakfast cereals, breads and pasta that use whole grains, pluses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, as well as nuts and Seeds.

What does 30g look like?

Elaine Rush, a professor of nutrition at Auckland University of Technology, has put together this example for getting into the 25-30g camp:

  • half a cup of rolled oats – 9g fibers
  • two Weetabix – 3g fibers
  • a thick slice of brown bread – 2g fiber a cup of cooked lentils – 4g fiber
  • a potato cooked with the skin on – 2g fiber
  • half a cup of chard (or silverbeet in New Zealand) – 1g fiber
  • a carrot – 3g fiber
  • an apple with the skin on – 4g fiber

But she says: “It’s not easy to increase fiber in the diet.”

Prof Cummings agrees. “It’s a big change for people,” he says. “It’s quite a challenge.”

The UK’s National Health Service has a page full of them.

They include:

  • cooking potatoes with the skin on
  • ] swapping white bread, pasta and rice for wholemeal versions
  • choosing high-fiber breakfast cereals such as porridge oats
  • chucking some chickpeas, beans or lentils in a curry or over a salad
  • having nuts or fresh fruit for snacks or dessert
  • consuming at least five portions of fruit or vegetables each day

What will be the benefit?

Well, after analysis 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results are in and have been published in the Lancet medical journal

It suggests if you shifted 1,000 people from a low fiber diet (less than 15g) to a high fiber one (25-29g), then it would prevent 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease.

That’s during the course of these studies, which tended to follow people for one to two decades.

It also showed lower levels of type-2 diabetes and bowel cancer as well as lower weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

And the more fiber people ate, the better.

What is fiber doing in the body?

There used to be a view that fibers did not much at all – that the human body could not digest it and it just sailed through.

But fiber makes us feel full and affects the way fat is absorbed in the small intestine – and things really become interesting in the large intestines, when your gut bacteria get to their dinner.

The large intestines are home to. Billions of bacteria – and fiber is their food.

It’s a bit like a brewery down there, admittedly one you wouldn’t want a pint from, where bacteria are fermenting fibers to make a whole load of chemicals. This includes short-chain fatty acids, which are absorbed. and have effects throughout the body.

“We have this body set up to digest fibers, which a lot of people just don’t use very much,” says Prof Cummings.

Why is this relevant now?

The fact fiber and whole grains and fruit and vegetables are healthy.

But there are people who are turning their back on fibers, with the popularity of low-carb diets.

Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, says: “We need to take serious note of this study.

“Its findings do imply that, though more popular in the community at large, any dietary regimes that recommend very low-carbohydrate diets should consider the cost of missing out on fibers from whole grains.

“This research confirms that fibers and whole-grain intakes are clearly important for longer term health.”

The study has been done to help the World Health Organization come up with official guidelines for how much fiber people should be eating to boost health and they are expected next year.

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