The winter months bring delicious opportunities for a diet rich in fibre. At the start of Decembeard – the month when bowel cancer charities raise awareness of bowel cancer – we give you reasons to get fibre fit.
A warming bowl of porridge sweetened with grated apple or chopped dates. Hearty stews, tagines or homemade soups, thickened with chunky vegetables, barley or a handful of lentils or beans. All great opportunities to increase our fibre intake. And all the evidence suggests a high-fibre diet is a healthy diet.
For “chinspiration” look no further than “Decembeard”, started by the charity Bowel Cancer Awareness to raise awarenes of bowel cancer. It’s the month when bowel cancer charities urge men to grow beards (or adorn the facial hair they’ve already got!) to raise money to help beat bowel cancer. Together with last month’s Movember, it’s all adding up to a hairy end to the year.
So what is the link between dietary fibre and bowel cancer?
Most of us are aware that high fibre foods improve general bowel health by reducing our chances of constipation. Studies also suggest that people who eat natural foods rich in fibre, particularly cereal fibre and wholegrains, have a lower bowel cancer risk. But it’s not clear whether the protective effect is due to the fibre itself, or to high fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains being healthy in other ways. It is also possible that people on a high-fibre diet tend to eat less of the foods that increase the risk, such as red and processed meat.
Nonetheless, there are several theories why fibre itself may have a protective effect. First, that it helps waste travel through the bowel, which keeps us regular and helps stop constipation. And second, that it speeds up the passage of bile (digestive) acids and any other potentially cancer-causing agents, reducing the time they are in contact with the bowel lining.
Whatever the reasons, protection against bowel cancer seems reason alone to eat more fibre. Especially when you consider that bowel cancer is the fourth commonest cancer, and second biggest cancer killer (although 95% of cases are in people over 50). For more on how to reduce your bowel cancer risk read our simple steps to bowel health.
And that’s not to mention numerous other health benefits
Studies show that a high-fibre diet, as well as reducing the chance of certain other cancers, can also protect us against obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
If you want to lose weight, switching to high-fibre foods such as wholegrains leaves you feeling less hungry so you’re less likely to overeat. Which is why at Vavista Life we talk about good carbohydrates, rather than no carbohydrates! Learn more in our article on wholegrain carbohydrates. Plus, for some recipe ideas try our Four easy recipes to add wholegrains to your diet.
And remember, as we move into “Decembeard”, ‘tis the season for foods that boost our dietary fibre! Nuts, dates, clementines, roast potatoes (remember, keep the skins on), and love ‘em or hate ‘em, the humble brussels sprout, are great sources of fibre. Even sugar-packed Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and minced pies add fibre as they’re full of nuts and dried fruit – though obviously you don’t want to overdo it! But it is some comfort over the festive season, when those unhelpful guilt gremlins can creep in, that a little of what you fancy can help you with your fibre fix!
Aune, D et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 10 Nov, 2011.
Murphy, N et al. Dietary fibre intake and risks of cancers of the colon and rectum in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC). PLoS One 22 Jun 2012