Dietary fibre offers numerous benefits to health and via many health channels we are encouraged to increase our daily fibre intake. While this sounds good in theory and definitely something to aim for, how is this advice actually put into practice? To help out, here I am discussing the ins and outs of fibre and some easy ways to effortlessly enjoy more.
Fibre – Recommended Daily Intake
The current recommended daily intake of fibre is 30g/day for men and 25g/day women. Unfortunately, most Australian’s do not reach even close to this amount. However with some greater education and guidance, this target can easily be reached if not exceeded!
Fibre Health Benefits
Before we start looking at how we can add more fibre to the diet, lets talk about why you should pay more attention to fibre. The benefits of fibre are varying and definitely don’t stop at digestive health. Some of the well-known benefits of fibre are:
Improved energy: fibre helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, preventing dips in energy during the day, helping to support sustained energy.
Weight Maintenance: fibre creates bulk and slows the passing of food, increasing satiety and stopping food cravings. Increased satiety means we will eat less energy dense sugar rich foods, helping us to maintain our weight.
Digestive health: fibre keeps our bowels regular, important for eliminating wastes from the body leaving us feeling lighter and allowing our digestive system to function better.
Improved Immunity: fibre feeds the good bacteria in our digestive tract, helping to improve our ability to fight against bad bacteria. A healthy balance of gut bacteria is also tied to reduced inflammation, colon cancer and improved mental wellbeing.
Improved Cholesterol levels: fibre binds to cholesterol and pulls it out of the body, this means eating enough fibre can help reduce LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol while maintaining good (‘HDL’) cholesterol levels.
Types of Fibre
Not all fibre is the same and each type plays a different role in the body. The three main types of fibre are:
Soluble fibre: slows down the digestive system, reduces raise in blood sugar levels and helps clear cholesterol.
Sources: chia seeds, linseeds, oat bran, barley bran, fruit, vegetables, psyillum and green peas.
Insoluble fibre: speeds up the bowels and acts as a broom to sweep out the digestive tract.
Sources: wheat bran, rice bran, root vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds
Resistant starch: cannot be digested and goes straight to the colon to feed bacteria, useful for weight loss and overall gut health.
Sources: green banana, cooked and cooled rice, cooked and cooled potato and cannelloni beans
Fibre content of common foods
1 cup legumes (eg chickpeas, lentils) 10g
1 cup steamed broccoli 6g
½ cup raw oats 6g
1 medium pear 5.5g
1 tablespoon chia seeds 5.5g
1 cup cooked grains (eg brown rice, quinoa, pasta) – approx. 5g
2 slices soy and linseed bread 5g
1 cup raw beetroot, 5g
½ cup fruit-free muesli 4g
1 medium apple 3.5g
1 tablespoon flaxseed 3.5g
Tips for adding more fibre to the diet
Pick the right kind: it’s important to refer back to the different types of fibre and pick the right kind for you. If you suffer slow bowels, adding soluble fibre may make the situation worse. Conversely, if you suffer loose bowels increasing intake of insoluble fibre may add to the situation. Always be mindful of what your body needs and avoid taking a blanket approach to your fibre intake, the same advice does not suit all!
Introduce slowly: make sure to introduce additional dietary fibre slowly to avoid bloating because if you’re body is not used to it, it will take time to adjust.
Monitor water intake: when increasing fibre it’s important to maintain adequate hydration, as fibre will impact water in the body. If you increase soluble fibre, it will absorb water to slow down the rate at which food leaves the digestive tract.
Start the day right: having a fibre rich meal is a great way to start the day and make a head start on your daily fibre count, try:
- Add 1 tbsp. chia seeds or flaxseeds smoothies or on top of porridge
- Sprinkle oat bran or LSA over fruit salad and yoghurt
- Serve left-over rice with yoghurt and fruit for breakfast
- Add cooked quinoa/grains or chia seeds into an omelette mix or scrambled eggs
- Have 2 x slices grainy toast with hummus, roast pumpkin and avocado
- Alternate bread/toast for a muesli-based breakfast eg oat bran porridge
The main event: Adding more fibre to main meals is easy with these tips:
- Aim for ½ plate fibre-rich vegetables at each meal
- Turn left-over roast vegetables into a salad with added legumes
- Toss left-over rice/quinoa into salads
- Go vegetarian: swap meat for legumes a few times per week
- Use hummus as a salad topping in-replace of store-bought dressings
- Try a vegetable soup for lunch 1-2 x weekly
- Try green pea puree or cauliflower mash with grilled meats
Make snacks count: snacks are another time when fibre can be easily added to the day, some fibre rich ideas include:
- Left-over roasted vegetables with hummus or thick yoghurt
- Smoothie using pear/kiwi and LSA
- Natural yoghurt with grated apple and LSA
- Handful raw nuts/seeds and 1 x piece fruit
- Home-made dip using green peas or sweet potato/beetroot hummus
- Fresh vegetable juice
- Small chia pudding
- Small vegetable soup
- Mashed avocado with raw vegetable sticks