How you can help cut the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and bowel cancer

Most of us don't get enough of it - according to recent research - but eating plenty of fibre is said to associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer.

Research also suggest a 15-30 per cent decrease in deaths from heart disease and other conditions when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least.

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But while Government guidelines say our dietary fibre intake should be 30g a day, most British adults consume less than 20g. And, according to the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, only nine per cent of UK adults manage to reach the 30g target with, on average, women consuming about 17g of fibre, and men 21g, a day.

The recommendations are obviously less for children, but those aged two to five years old are said to need about 15g of fibre a day; five to 11 year-olds should have about 20g; and 11 to 16 year-olds about 25g.

How can I increase my fibre intake?

The British Heart Foundation says fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds are the foods to look out for.

And if you are buying ready-made products like bread, pasta or ready meals, check the nutritional information on the back of the pack. It needs to contain 3g per 100g to be called a source of fibre and 6g per 100g (or 3g per 100kcals) to claim to be high in fibre.

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The NHS suggests choosing a higher-fibre breakfast cereal, eating wholemeal or granary bread, leaving skins on potatoes, and eating more pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas in stews, curries and salads.

But as with any health changes, the BHF advises increasing your fibre intake gradually, making one change at a time as your body adjusts.