We know fibre is good for us but can’t we just get it from fruit and vegetables? Do we really need cereal fibre?
We keep learning more about the many benefits of dietary fibre including cereal fibre, for health and wellbeing.
Dietary fibre is complex – there’s soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. Different foods have different combinations and it varies between grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
Fibre from cereals helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer1and helps keep bowels regular.2 We are even discovering new ways that fibre from whole grains supports a healthy gut microbiome.3
The highest contributors of cereal fibre to Australian diets are breakfast cereals, breads and bread rolls. Even within whole grain foods, it’s important to eat a wide variety as the working mechanisms of cereal fibres differ.
For example the alurone layer found in whole grains and many bran rich high fibre grain foods is largely responsible for the antioxidant capacity of many whole grains which is equal to and additive to that of fruits and vegetables.4,5
The β glucans in oats binds with bile acids and helps to lower LDL and total cholesterol.2,6 It also decreases the need for insulin and helps to feel fuller for longer. The soluble fibre in psyllium may act similarly.6 In fact there is strong evidence that the regular consumption of cereals based on barley, psyllium or oats can help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels.2Resistant starch in some grain foods may help protect the colon6 and promote a healthy gut microbiome.3
Insoluble fibre, particularly in wheat is particularly helpful for laxation and to prevent constipation.2
So what else is special about fibre in cereal foods?
- Compared with other fibres, cereal fibre may offer the greatest protection against risk of early death.7
- Cereal fibre, more so than dietary fibre from other sources, has been associated with reduced risk of chronic lifestyle diseases.8
- Strong evidence from prospective cohort studies shows that higher intakes of total dietary fibre (particularly cereal fibre and whole grains) is associated with lower risk of cardiometabolic disease and colorectal cancer.9
- Cereal fibre appears to be more powerful at reducing the risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer, compared to fibre from fruit and vegetables.10
- From a comprehensive review of over 304 pooled meta-analysis, whole grain/high fibre grain foods were found to offer the greatest protection against diet related diseases of all food groups; more protective than fruits and vegetables.11
- People with the highest intakes of cereal fibre (10 g/day) had a reduced risk of premature death from a range of chronic diseases including cancer (15%), heart disease (20%), respiratory disease (21%) and diabetes (34%). This was compared to people with the lowest cereal fibre intakes (2g/day) and accounted for lifestyle factors such as health, physical activity and obesity.1
- People with the highest intakes of cereal fibre also had a reduced risk (14%) of worsening of osteoarthritis knee pain.12
How much cereal fibre are Australians consuming?
Many Australians are missing out on the benefits of cereal fibre. A recent study of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey found that adults had an average of 6.4g cereal fibre a day, which is just half of what many adults need.13
An average 45g serve of ready-to-eat cereal, muesli or oats contains around 4g of fibre, with some higher fibre options containing upwards of 15g a serve, 14 making breakfast cereals a valuable daily source of cereal fibre.
And there’s plenty to choose from. Nearly 400 breakfast cereals on Australian supermarket shelves are either a source, good source or excellent source of fibre according to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand criteria (≥2g/serve, ≥4g/serve or ≥7g/serve respectively).14-15
So how can we make sure we get the cereal fibre we need?
Eat grain foods 3-4 times a day and choose at least half your grain foods as whole grain or high fibre foods.16
- Huang T, Xu M, Lee A, Cho S, Qi Lu. Consumption of whole grains and cereal fiber and total and cause-specific mortality: prospective analysis of 367,442 individuals. BMC Medicine 2015; 13: 59 DOI: 10.1186/s12916-015-0294-7.
- Williams PG. The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Advances in Nutrition 2014; 5: 636S-673S. DOI: 3945/an.114.006247
- Jones JM, Peña RJ, Korczak R, Braun HJ. CIMMYT Series on Carbohydrates, Wheat, Grains, and Health: Carbohydrates, Grains, and Whole Grains and Disease Prevention. Part I. Body Weight and Obesity. Cereal Foods World. 2016; 61(3):96-105. DOI 10.1094/CFW-61-3-0096
- Liu RH. Whole grain phytochemicals and health. Journal of Cereal Science. 2007;46(3):207-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcs.2007.06.010
- Lillioja S, Neal AL, Tapsell L, Jacobs DR. Whole grains, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension: Links to the aleurone preferred over indigestible fiber. BioFactors. 2013;39(3):242-58. DOI: 10.1002/biof.1077
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: NHMRC; 2013. (Also available from: http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines, accessed 9 June 2015).
- Kim Y, Je Y. Dietary Fiber Intake and Total Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology 2014;180(6):565-73. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwu174
- Fuller S, Beck E, Salman H, Tapsell L. New Horizons for the Study of Dietary Fiber and Health: A Review. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2016;71(1):1-12. DOIi: 10.1007/s11130-016-0529-6.
- SACN Carbohydrates and Health Report. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Recommendations on Carbohydrates; 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-carbohydrates-and-health-report
- Aune D, Chan D, Lau R, Vieira R, Greenwood D, Kampman E, et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. British Medical Journal. 2011;343. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d6617
- Fardet A, Boirie Y, (2014).Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutrition Reviews 72(12): 741-762. DOI:10.1111/nure.12153
- Dai Z, Niu J, Zhang Y, Jacques P, Felsen DT. Dietary intake of fibre and risk of knee osteoarthritis in two US prospective cohorts. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Published Online First: 23 May 2017. DOI 1136/annrheumdis-2016-210810
- Barrett E, Beck E, Probst Y, Williams R. Cereal fibre intake in Australia: Secondary analysis of the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrition & Dietetics. 2017;74: 9–49. DOI:10.1111/1747-0080.12353
- Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. Breakfast Cereal Category: Nutritional Profile. 2017 http://www.glnc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MW-GLNC-Breakfast-Cereal-Factsheet-2017-FINAL.pdf
- Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Standard 1.2.7 Nutrition, Health and Related Claims; 2014. (Available from: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2014C01191, accessed 9 June 2015. NB: Food businesses are required to comply with Standard 1.2.7 from January 2016).
- Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. Grains and Nutrition. http://www.glnc.org.au/grains-2/grains-and-nutrition/
ABCMF would like to thank Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council for the assistance provided to develop this article.Share