Is it time to up your fibre intake?
Fibre found in vegetables, fruits and grains that we eat can help prevent bowel problems such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and even cancers. But most Australians don’t eat enough – do you?
Which is why it’s really important, especially as we get older and our digestive system slows down, to eat enough fibre.
Why fibre is important?
Fibre is found in plant-based foods that your body can’t fully digest. There are three types of dietary fibre:
1. Soluble fibre
This kind of fibre is found in legumes like lentils and beans, and vegetables and fruit. It helps lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels healthy.
2. Insoluble fibre
This kind of fibre is found in brans, wholegrain cereals including brown rice, and wholegrain breads. It absorbs a lot of water and adds bulk to faeces helping it pass more easily through your bowels.
3. Resistant starch
This kind of fibre is found in wholegrain foods, legumes, al dente pasta and cooked potatoes that have cooled down. It makes you feel fuller for longer so it can help with appetite control and weight management, and it may also help with good gut health.
How much fibre do I need?
Australian guidelines recommend adults eat at least 25–30g of a fibre a day, and even up to 38g for men. Unfortunately, however, most Australians only consume between 20–25g of fibre each day.
How can I get more fibre into my diet?
If you're like most Australians and you don’t eat enough fibre here are 5 simple ways you can add more fibre to your diet:
1. Start the day right
Have a high fibre breakfast such as: muesli, porridge or bran, which contains roughly 6g of fibre per serve. Boost the fibre content by adding little extras like:
- two tablespoons of ground linseed for another 4g of fibre
- half a small apple (with the skin on) for an extra gram of fibre.
2. Fill up on beans
Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are very high in fibre and can be added to salads, soups, stews, rice dishes and casseroles. Why not add:
- half a 400g can of borlotti beans (drained) to a salad for an extra 8g of fibre
- half a cup of green peas as a side for an extra 4g of fibre
- as much as 12g fibre to your daily intake with a bean-based soup for lunch.
3. Have a high fibre snack
Swap that naughty afternoon treat for a healthier option:
- some veggie sticks and a hummus dip
- a handful of nuts, which has around 2–3g fibre
- fruit like an apple or a pear – leave the skin on!
4. Try a grain-based salad
Try a grain-based salad for a change. For instance, a salad based on quinoa or bulgur wheat with some diced vegetables and a few nuts has around 6–8g of fibre.
5. Read food labels
Check food labels and try and select foods with at least 3g of fibre per serve.
Before you go about changing your eating plan completely in a day, remember it’s best to increase your fibre intake gradually. A sudden increase may produce wind or flatulence, bloating and stomach cramps. It's also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids so the fibre has something to absorb, otherwise you may become constipated. But when you’re finally following a fibre-rich, well-balanced diet you’ll be doing your digestive system and your heart health a lot of good!
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