Fibre is derived from plant-based foods (vegetables, fruit, whole-grains, pulses, nuts and seeds) and is a vital component of a healthy balanced diet. The body cannot, however, absorb fibre, it gets no nutrients or calories from it. The importance of fibre comes from its role in helping keep your digestive system healthy and functioning properly. Fibre assists and speeds up the excretion of waste and toxins from the body which in turn aids the prevention of illnesses and diseases associated with a build-up of this toxic material in the colon.
Since human beings do not have the enzymes to digest fibre, it passes through the body virtually unchanged along with other digested food until it arrives at the large intestine. There are two types of fibre;
– Insoluble – this promotes the growth of certain friendly bacteria and helps make waste material soft and bulky. This helps faeces pass through the intestines quicker and so prevents constipation. An efficient transit time of waste material through the bowels and out of the body also helps prevent distressing diseases like bowel cancer and other cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Insoluble fibre is found in bran, whole-grain flours and breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, vegetables, edible fruit peels, nuts and seeds.
– Soluble – this absorbs water in the intestine, which softens stools and helps waste move through the body more quickly. Soluble fibre is thought to help reduce blood cholesterol as the soluble fibres bind to cholesterol in food or from bile and prevent them being absorbed in the blood stream. Soluble fibre slows down digestion and the sudden release of energy into the blood stream, especially from carbohydrates. This helps to keep blood sugar more stable. Sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, lentils, peas, beans, oats, potatoes, dried fruit and soy products.
As fibre rich foods are often quite bulky, they help to fill you up quicker and so can help prevent over-eating.
What’s the ideal daily fibre intake?
The general recommended minimum amount of fibre daily in the UK is 18g, however, you can aim for up to 30 – 35g. It is essential however that you ensure you drink plenty of water as you increase fibre in the diet, this will compensate for the water absorbed by the fibre and prevent constipation. Just as too little fibre in the diet is not good for the body, too much can also have a negative impact. Fibre rich foods should be increased gradually to allow your body time to adjust.
Salt, or sodium chloride, is critical to our existence. Every cell in our body is dependent on sodium and potassium in just the right balance in order to properly exchange energy, into and out of the cell. The problem is when salt is taken in excess. Too much salt can raise blood pressure which puts you at risk from health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Recommended Daily intake of Salt
Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt daily (around 1 full teaspoon) and children should eat less. Simply stopping adding salt in your cooking or using it on the table may not be enough to reduce your level to this range. There is so much salt ‘hidden’ in foods these days that its never been more important to read your food labels. Bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, crackers, soups, sauces in fact pretty much all processed foods are high in salt. They may not individually contain dangerous levels, but the accumulation can be if you eat a lot of processed and refined foods.
Use nutrition labels on food packaging to see salt content. But most food labels will only give the figure for sodium and not the actual amount of salt. You can calculate how much slat you are eating by multiplying by 2.5. So if a recipe has 0.2g of sodium it contains 0.5g Salt (0.2 x 2.5 = 0.5).
– More than 1.5g of salt/0.6g sodium per 100g is considered HIGH
– 0.3g salt/0.1g sodium or less per 100g is considered LOW
There are a few simple tips to start reducing your sodium intake;
- Limit or ideally completely avoid eating out at fast food restaurants
- Avoid crisps, chips, salted nuts and snacks
- Do not use stock cubes, packet sauces or gravy – make all your sauces from scratch.
- Avoid packet cereals or look for those with low sodium content
- Limit ready meals and always check the labels
- Limit or ideally completely avoid high salt foods like bacon, ham, processed meats, sausages, cheese, salted fish, smoked fish and meat, pickles, olives, yeast extract
- Check the salt levels per slice of bread (or bagel/bread bun/cracker etc) and calculate the daily intake if you eat these at each meal or for snacks.
Basically, reducing your intake of commercially produced refined foods will go a long way to helping you reduce your intake of too much sodium. It is also a good idea to swap the type of salt you use at home. Common table salt is chemically cleaned to contain just sodium and chloride. Rock salt like Himalayan Salt Crystals are salt in its original form, natural and unaltered, maintaining its pure natural qualities. It contains all the natural minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, as well as sodium. Trace elements are also present like chromium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, iodine, sulfur, cobalt, carbon etc.