The average fibre intake is already low and avoidance of foods like potatoes, a surprisingly important fibre provider, according to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey, is bad news for digestive health.

Potatoes provide 12 percent of the average adult intake of fibre, which is twice the amount we get from breakfast cereals and 30 percent more than a person's intake from brown bread, including wholemeal bread.

Potatoes are an even more important source of fibre for teens, with 11 to 18-year-olds getting 15 percent, nearly one sixth of their daily intake, from these food items.

Fibre is crucial for good health and long-term population studies suggest it may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It also aids digestion and supports weight control by promoting a sense of fullness.

Dieters often wrongly believe potatoes are calorific and fattening, yet they are naturally fat free, lower in calories than most people think, and provide only 6 percent of the energy intake for adults, less than white bread and the same contribution as alcohol.

But fibre is not the only reason to tuck into more tubers. Potatoes are also a useful source of potassium, which counters the effect of salt and helps maintain healthy blood pressure.

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends that half of a person's calories come from carbohydrates, particularly starchy carbs such as potatoes and whole grain cereals.

Latest SACN guidance advises: "There needs to be a change in the population's diet so that people derive a greater proportion of dietary energy from carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in free sugars and high in dietary fibre."

Dietary fibre intake should be largely achieved from a variety of foods, such as whole grains, pulses, potatoes, vegetables and fruits."

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