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How to get more fibre into your diet

How to get more fibre into your diet

Most of us need to eat more fibre and have fewer added sugars in our diet. Eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

Government guidelines published in July 2015 say that our dietary fibre intake should increase to 30g a day, as part of a healthy balanced diet. As most adults are only eating an average of about 18g day, we need to find ways of increasing our intake.

Children under the age of 16 don't need as much fibre in their diet as older teenagers and adults, but they still need more than they get currently:

  • 2-5 year-olds: need about 15g of fibre a day
  • 5-11 year-olds: need about 20g
  • 11-16 year-olds: need about 25g

On average, children and teenagers are only getting around 15g or less of fibre a day. Encouraging them to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and starchy foods (choosing wholegrain versions and potatoes with the skins on where possible) can help to ensure they are eating enough fibre.

Why do we need fibre in our diet?

There is strong evidence that eating plenty of fibre (commonly referred to as roughage) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

Choosing foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller, while a diet rich in fibre can help digestion and prevent constipation.

Find out more about the importance of fibre and when you may need to reduce your intake, in Why is fibre important?

Tips to increase your fibre intake

It's important to get fibre from a variety of sources, as eating too much of one type of food may not provide you with a healthy balanced diet. 

To increase your fibre intake you could:

  • Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal such as plain wholewheat biscuits (like Weetabix) or plain shredded whole grain (like Shredded wheat), or porridge as oats are also a good source of fibre. Find out more about healthy breakfast cereals.
  • Go for wholemeal or granary breads, or higher fibre white bread, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
  • Go for potatoes with their skins on, such as a baked potato or boiled new potatoes. Find out more about starchy foods and carbohydrates.
  • Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
  • Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries. Find out more about how to get your 5 A DAY.
  • Have some fresh or dried fruit, or fruit canned in natural juice for dessert. Because dried fruit is sticky, it can increase the risk of tooth decay, so it's better if it is only eaten as part of a meal, rather than as a between-meal snack.
  • For snacks, try fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.

Fibre in your daily diet

Listed below is the fibre content of some example meals.

Fibre at breakfast

Two thick slices of wholemeal toasted bread (6.5g of fibre) topped with one sliced banana (1.4g) and a small glass of fruit smoothie drink (1.5g) will give you around 9.4g of fibre.

Fibre at lunch

A baked jacket potato with the skin on (2.6g) with a 200g portion of reduced-sugar and reduced-salt baked beans in tomato sauce (9.8g) followed by an apple (1.2g) will give you around 13.6g of fibre.

Fibre at dinner

Mixed vegetable tomato-based curry cooked with onion and spices (3.3g) with wholegrain rice (2.8g) followed by a lower fat fruit yoghurt (0.4g) will give you around 6.5g of fibre. Bear in mind that fruit yoghurts can sometimes be high in added sugars, so check the label and try to choose lower-sugar versions.

Fibre as a snack

A small handful of nuts can have up to 3g of fibre. Make sure you choose unsalted nuts, such as plain almonds, without added sugars.

Total: Around 32.5g of fibre

Fibre on food labels

The above example is only an illustration, as the amount of fibre in any food can depend on how it is made or prepared and on how much of it you eat. Most pre-packaged foods have a nutrition label on the side or back of the packaging, which often gives you a guide about how much dietary fibre the food contains.

Passive smoking: protect your family and friends

Passive smoking: protect your family and friends

Secondhand smoke is dangerous, especially for children. The best way to protect loved ones is to quit smoking. At the very least, make sure you have a smokefree home and car.

When you smoke a cigarette (or roll-up, pipe or cigar), most of the smoke doesn't go into your lungs, it goes into the air around you where anyone nearby can breathe it in.

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that you exhale plus the 'sidestream' smoke created by the lit end of your cigarette.

When friends and family breathe in your secondhand smoke – what we call passive smoking – it isn't just unpleasant for them, it can damage their health too.

People who breathe in secondhand smoke regularly are more likely to get the same diseases as smokers, including lung cancer and heart disease.

Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke are more prone to premature birth and their baby is more at risk of low birthweight and cot death.

And children who live in a smoky house are at higher risk of breathing problems, asthma, and allergies.

How to protect against secondhand smoke

The only surefire way to protect your friends and family from secondhand smoke is to keep the environment around them smoke free.

The best way to do that is to quit smoking completely. If you're not ready to quit, make every effort to keep your cigarette smoke away from other people and never smoke indoors or in the car.

  • Always smoke outside
  • Ask your visitors to smoke outside
  • Don't smoke in the car or allow anyone else to

Take steps NOW to stop smoking.

The risks of passive smoking

Secondhand smoke is a lethal cocktail of more than 4,000 irritants, toxins and cancer-causing substances.

Most secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless, so no matter how careful you think you're being, people around you still breathe in the harmful poisons.

Opening windows and doors or smoking in another room in the house doesn't protect people. Smoke can linger in the air for two to three hours after you've finished a cigarette, even with a window open. And even if you limit smoking to one room, the smoke will spread to the rest of the house where people can inhale it.

Is passive smoking harmful?

Read about stop smoking treatments.

Children and passive smoking

Passive smoking is especially harmful for children as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

It's estimated that more than one in five children in the UK live in a household where at least one person smokes and, as a result, they're more likely to develop:

Children are particularly vulnerable in the family car where secondhand smoke can reach hazardous levels even with the windows open.

It's estimated that smoking in cars produces concentrations of toxins up to 11 times higher than you used to find in the average smoky pub.

To protect children, there is a new ban on smoking in cars and other vehicles carrying children. From October 1 2015 it is against the law to smoke in a private vehicle if there’s a young person under-18 present.

Read about the new law on smoking in private vehicles.

How safe is e-cig vapour?

E-cigarettes don't produce tobacco smoke so the risks of passive smoking with conventional cigarettes don't apply to e-cigs.

Research into this area is ongoing, but it seems that e-cigs release negligible amounts of nicotine into the atmosphere and the limited evidence available suggests that any risk from passive vaping to bystanders is small relative to tobacco cigarettes.

In England, the Government has no plans to ban vaping indoors (although some employers have banned them in the workplace) but some health professionals recommend avoiding using them around pregnant women, babies and children.

Read about the safety of e-cigarettes.

Your GP can give you advice about quitting smoking.

BBC newsreader donates kidney to save mother

BBC newsreader donates kidney to save mother

A BBC news presenter who donated a kidney to save his mother's life says her health has been 'completely transformed' since having the operation.

Sabet Choudhury was told his mother Sakina, 70, could have only three years to live after her kidneys failed.

He said he had "little choice" but to donate a kidney, as she could have been waiting 10 years for a transplant because of the lack of deceased donors among black and Asian people.

"She could have waited to find a kidney from someone on the Organ Donor Register, but that would have taken a long time, which she did not necessarily have," he said.

The operation was a success, but he said the wait for other black and minority ethnic (BME) families could be "long and fatal".

Transplants are more likely to be successful if the donor is of a similar ethnic background because blood and tissue types are more likely to match, according to NHS Blood and Transplant.

Sabet, a presenter for BBC Points West news in southwest England, is urging more black and Asian people to register to donate organs.

'New lease of life'

Sakina, who is of Bangladeshi origin, suffered kidney failure in December 2013. Doctors said she needed a new kidney and immediately began searching for a donor.

Sabet, 41, from Gloucester, said it had been hard to watch his mother having to be hooked up to a dialysis machine three times a week with a "pretty poor quality of life".

"Dialysis keeps you alive, but it doesn't make you better," he said. Many patients, especially older people, only survive for a few years on dialysis and need a transplant to save their life.

"You don't want to see that happen in front of your eyes, that quickly, knowing you can do something about it," said Sabet.

After months of tests, Sabet was told he would be a suitable donor. About a third of all kidney transplants carried out in the UK are from living donors.

His initial fear was the procedure would affect his health, but he was back at work within six weeks of the three-hour operation, carried out in Bristol in November 2014.

"I've returned to full health since the operation," he said. "In fact I'm probably healthier now because the process has made me more health conscious."

He said the new kidney has given his mother a new lease of life. "The difference between how she is now and how she was before is like night and day. She looks 10 years younger.

"Being free of that dialysis machine … it's as if her arms and legs have been untied. She has rediscovered a lust for life that I thought she would never have again."

'You could save nine lives'

People from an ethnic minority background have to wait around 10 months longer than average for kidney transplants because of the shortage of matching donors.

Only 3.5% of people from ethnic minorities are on the Organ Donor Register, while more than a third of those needing a transplant are from ethnic minorities.

"My view is that if you are prepared to take, you should also be prepared to give," said Sabet. "You will be helping people in your own community. One person donating their organs could save nine lives. That's a beautiful thing.

"If you do sign up, it's a good idea to tell family and friends about your intentions," he said. If you register your wishes without telling the people closest to you, it may come as a surprise when they are trying to deal with their loss.

"Telling your loved ones that you want to be a donor will make it easier for them to agree to the donation in the event of your death," said Sabet.

Some people may be reluctant to donate organs, believing it goes against their religion, but the major religions in the UK all support the principles of organ donation and transplantation.

Find out what your religion says about organ donation on the Organ Donation website.

Family alerts travellers to deadly fake alcohol

Family alerts travellers to deadly fake alcohol

The family of a British backpacker who died after drinking gin which had been mixed with methanol have launched a campaign to warn travellers of the dangers of fake alcohol.

Cheznye Emmons, 23, was fatally poisoned after drinking the counterfeit gin, which she bought from a shop in a sealed bottle sporting a familiar brand while travelling in Indonesia in 2013.

Methanol (also known as methyl alcohol) is a colourless liquid with a mild alcohol odour. When ingested, it is extremely poisonous and is known to cause blindness, kidney failure, seizures and death.

The chemical is deliberately added to strengthen or stretch illegal alcoholic drinks, especially spirits, some of which are being sold in bars, shops and hotels in popular tourist areas such as Bali, Lombok and Sumatra.

Bottles 'look genuine'

The practice is common in many parts of the world. However, Indonesia has recently been singled out following a number of deaths and cases of serious illness of locals and foreigners.

Some fake alcohol on sale in Indonesia has been found to contain concentrations of methanol 44,000 times above safe levels.

Figures suggest 280 people have died from illicit alcohol poisoning since 2011 in Indonesia. Three Brits have died from methanol poisoning in the country in the last five years.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises tourists to “take extreme care when purchasing spirit-based drinks, as bottles may appear to be genuine when they are not.”

The FCO reports that there have also been cases of methanol poisoning from drinking adulterated “arak” or “arrack” - a local rice or palm liquor.

‘Save a Life’ campaign

The Emmons family set up the Save a Life Campaign soon after Cheznye's death and have created a poster for GP surgeries warning people travelling to Indonesia, including Bali, of the dangers of counterfeit alcohol.

Measha Emmons, Cheznye's sister, says: "The bottle may be sealed and it may look genuine but it may still have been contaminated with methanol. You won't be able to taste the difference.”

Cheznye, who was travelling with her boyfriend, first showed signs of methanol poisoning when she woke up a day after drinking the fake gin unable to see. She died five days later in hospital.

Signs of methanol poisoning

The first signs of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, feeling unsteady and loss of inhibition, but these are often confused with the effects of drinking alcohol and may not be noticed.

It can be several hours before the major symptoms of methanol poisoning appear including:

  • headache
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • feeling breathless
  • impaired vision and, in severe cases, blindness

Without prompt treatment, the poison will continue to build up and can lead to convulsions, coma and death. Patients who survive may suffer permanent visual impairment.

Methanol poisoning can be treated by giving the patient fomepizole or ethanol through an intravenous drip to try to reduce the level of poisoning and dialysis to remove toxic substances from the kidneys.

Tips on staying safe

Here's a checklist to help you reduce your risk of methanol poisoning:

  • Don't buy illegal alcoholic drinks.
  • If the price of your alcoholic drink looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Buy alcoholic drinks from a reputable vendor and check bottle seals are intact.
  • Be suspicious of alcoholic drinks offered for sale in informal settings that are not licensed to sell alcohol, such as market stalls.
  • Steer clear of alcoholic drinks sold in unlabelled containers
  • Check branded products for labels that are poorly printed or with errors, or bottles with broken seals. Do not buy these.
  • Be aware of the signs of methanol poisoning and seek medical attention 
immediately if you suspect you or a companion have ingested methanol.
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