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So, it turns out if you want to improve your diet, you can forget all about low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free or any sort of restrictive nutrition plan for that matter.

You can improve your diet with a very simple element (and one your granny likely mentioned more than once), and that, ladies, is fibre!

We have all heard that porridge is a healthy breakfast. Indeed, a recent study confirmed the benefits of this Irish favourite as scientists, based at the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork, discovered that beta glucan, which is the fibre found in porridge, could help reduce cholesterol and even body weight. 

The benefits of fibre have been widely documented in the past few years; it has been proved to make you feel full for longer, plays a key role in digestion, in reducing our risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Yet, we are not eating enough of it

According to science, we should aim to eat 30 grams of fibre each day to enjoy all these benefits – weight loss included.

However, a whooping 80 per cent Irish adults are not even reaching 25g a day, which is the European Food Safety Authority recommendation. 

How can I introduce more fibre to my diet? 

Introducing more fibre into your diet isn’t rocket science.

Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants while foods such as meat, fish and dairy products don't contain any fibre.

To increase your fibre intake, the first thing you can do is simply increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and legumes – all planted-based food, basically. 

What foods are really high in fibre?

Beans, chickpeas and lentils are excellent sources of fibre and should regularly be on your menu, as well as wholegrain or wholemeal bread, rice and pasta.

All vegetables and fruits contain fibre, especially cauliflower, broccoli, squash, apple, pears, berries and leafy greens. 

Another good reason to stick to your five-a-day, or even more… 

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Out of the thousands of diets and food crazes that we hear about, most of them generally have one thing in common: no bread.

There is no doubt that cutting out the King of Carbs is going to help with a huge range of dietary issues. But eliminating an entire food group, as well as one of our biggest energy sources, is bound to have a noticeable impact on our bodies.

Let’s look at what exactly happens when we eliminate bread from our diets.

Rapid Weight Loss

One of the first things you may notice if you completely cut out carbs from your diet is how quickly you begin to lose weight. But what may surprise you is that it’s not actually fat you are losing but water. According to womenshealthmag.com every gram of carbohydrate that is stored in the body holds three to four times its weight in water. So if you cut out carbs altogether, a lot of water weight should drop off quickly.

You can catch… the flu?

Cutting carbs out of your diet is a huge change for your metabolism. An unpleasant common symptom of cutting bread totally out of your diet is the “low-carb flu”. This happens when your body starts adjusting to the change of getting its energy from fats instead of carbs. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, bad breath, and brain fog. The good news is that it doesn’t last. Soon your body will start to run on fats in a process called ketosis.

The risk of heart disease fluctuates

This depends on what type of grains you cut out of your diet. According to Plos One, refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of heart disease. Whereas the American Heart Association says that whole grains can improve blood-cholesterol levels and lower the risks of many illnesses including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Your cravings will start to disappear

Thankfully cutting out white bread will help with your cravings for… white bread! Refined carbohydrates make your blood-sugar levels skyrocket only for them to plummet back down. A study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition alleged that this activity can start up our addictive centres in the brain. Choosing fibre-rich whole grains can help to keep the blood-sugars from crashing back down.

Constipation can unfortunately occur

Whole-grains are one of our biggest fibre supplies so cutting out brown bread and whole-grains in general will make constipation more likely. As well as keeping your bowels running smoothly, fibre helps to keep blood-sugar levels consistent and reduces the risk of obesity. Alternative sources of fibre include lentils, beans, avocado, edamame and brown rice.

Energy levels can drop

As carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, cutting them out will most likely see a drop in energy levels. This will make exercising more difficult as you may feel fatigued. To combat this it is important to make sure that you get enough fat in your diet to replace the loss of carbs and to stay totally hydrated by drinking loads of water. 

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At this time of year, after finally shaking off the remnants of winter doom-and-gloom, plenty of us are taking a cold, hard look at our diets.

But following recipes, counting calories, eliminating sugar, or replacing meals is tedious – not to mention tough to stick with. 

Now research from the US suggests that one simple tweak could result in weight-loss that lasts.

It is being reported that high-fibre diets provide heaps of health benefits while being largely easy-to-follow.

Indeed, people who only added more fibre to their otherwise normal diet were able to lose weight, lower their blood pressure and reduce blood sugar levels. Hurrah!

And although they didn't lose quite as much weight as people following more complex diets, the researchers contend that their findings are encouraging for those who might be overwhelmed by the likes of paleo, Dukan, Atkins, or 5:2.

"For people who find it difficult to follow complex dietary recommendations, a simple-to-follow diet with just one message – increase your fiber intake – may be the way to go," said study author Dr Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The study involved 240 adults who were at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers asked them to change their diets for one year.

"High-fibre foods are rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients," Dr Ma also highlighted. 

The results show that "one small step can have a big impact in your battle with the bathroom scale," said Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor at Boston University.

"If you want to focus on one thing you can do in 2015 to help you lose weight, it might be increasing your fibre from whole grains, fruits and vegetables."

High-fibre foods, such as fruit and vegetables, as full of water as well as fibre – meaning they fill you up quickly. 

Alternative sources include beans, wholegrain and wholemeal rice and bread, pulses, nuts, baked potato with the skin left on, dried fruit, bran-based cereal, and porridge.

Most people in Ireland don't eat enough fibre: the RDA varies between 18g and 30g a day, depending on your age and gender.

Foods that contain 6 per cent fibre or more are considered to be high fibre foods, while those containing at least 3 per cent fibre are considered to be a good source of fibre.

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The 5:2; Dukan; Atkins, and juice-detoxes – there always seems to be a diet craze of sorts on offer.

But it can be hard to keep track of what foods we actually need in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Most of us are seriously lacking in the likes of fibre and potassium things that are vital for our health. In fact, the Irish Nutrition And Dietetic Institute tells us that women need at least 24g of fibre every day, while the recommended amount of potassium is 4.7g.

Here, we detail five key nutrients that we all need in our diets – as well as some tasty foods where we can find them:

1. Fibre is an absolute necessity in our diet. It is essential for aiding digestion and keeping everything moving.

Where to get it? Some great sources of fibre are black beans (why not try making homemade burritos?), pears, raspberries and sweet potatoes.

2. Potassium is usually ignored when people are thinking about what they need in their diet, but it is actually the nutrient that keeps our hearts beating… who knew!

Where to get it? Bananas are loaded with potassium so grabbing one on your way to work in the mornings will get your day off to a good start. Baked potatoes with the skin, beetroot, and spinach are also great sources of potassium.

3. Vitamin D is best gotten from sunlight but thanks to our ever-frustrating Irish weather it’s very unlikely that many of us are producing the necessary amount.

Where to get it? Fish such as smoked salmon and tuna are a great source of vitamin D. Or, a very easy way to get your recommended daily allowance is by drinking fortified milk and fortified orange juice, or eating fortified cereal.

4. Iron is extremely important in the diet. A lot of women who suffer with general fatigue are not getting enough and because of our periods we need more iron in our diets than men. Vegetarian and vegan diets are especially difficult to maintain a sufficient intake of iron.

Where to get it? Great vegetable sources of iron are broccoli, edamame, lentils, spinach and cashews. But a beef steak is still the best way of boosting your iron intake as the type of iron in red meats is more easily absorbed by the body.

5. Calcium is crucial in maintaining healthy bones and preventing blood clots.

Where to get it? Kale, cabbage and broccoli are some of the best sources of calcium, as are low fat cheese, milk and yoghurt.

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Constant research has shown that having a low or non carb diet, can not only make it harder to lose weight but also causes long term health problems.

Filling

Ensure your meals contain at least some portions that are high in fibre. Not only will this help with digesting foods, will keep you fuller for longer and prevent you from snacking on bad foods.

Long term benefits

Studies have proven again and again, that adults who eat a diet high in fibre decrease their chances of getting heart disease and even colon cancer. So, eating more plant based carbohydrates can have great long term affects too.

Good carbs vs. bad carbs

Bad carbohydrates are foods that have been refined by removing all the nutrients from the grain e.g. white rice, white bread. While good carbs are full of fibre. They have not been processed and can be slowly digested into our system e.g. brown rice, fruits, vegetables, beans.

But most importantly, it’s all about moderation and having some good carbs can go a long way to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

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