Easy ways to get more fibre in your diet

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Experts say that most Canadians get less than half the recommended daily amount of fibre. The good news is that all it takes is a few small adjustments to ensure you get all the health benefits fibre has to offer.

Since fibre is found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains, chances are you’re eating some fibre. Unfortunately, you’re probably not getting enough. And that’s too bad because fibre packs a powerful health punch, including weight maintenance.

Here’s how fibre can help:

  • Keeps your bowels healthy and aids in preventing constipation by making stools softer and bulkier.
  • Lowers your blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
  • Keeps your blood sugar levels in check by slowing the absorption of sugar and slowing digestion in general.
  • Reduces your risk of digestive problems.
  • Helps maintain your weight or can help you drop a few pounds by helping you feel fuller longer. And since high-fibre foods require more chewing and digesting time, you’re more likely to eat slowly. This will give your brain time to register that you’re full.

How much is enough?

Depending on your age and gender, you have different fibre needs:

Gender/ageRecommended daily amount of fibre in grams
Women — 18-50 years old25 grams
Women — 51 and older21 grams
Men — 18-50 years old38 grams
Men — 51 and older21 grams

Do note, however, that if you have ongoing digestive problems or have been diagnosed with a condition, you should speak to your doctor before increasing your fibre intake.

Make good fibre choices

There are two types of fibre:

  • Soluble fibre dissolves in water and is believed to help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. Oat bran, vegetables and some fruits contain it.
  • Insoluble fibre (also knows as roughage or bulk) doesn’t dissolve in water and can help relieve constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system. It’s found in wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, nuts, vegetables, fruits and legumes such as beans and peas.

You don’t really need to worry about how much you’re getting of each type. You just want to make sure you’re getting enough. Fortunately, that isn’t hard to do. Here’s how:

  • Make breakfast count by eating a high-fibre cereal, one with more than six grams per serving. You can also add more fibre by topping your cereal bowl off with banana slices, strawberries or raisins.
  • Grab a fruit as part of a meal or snack.
  • Cut down on the “white” by switching to whole-wheat bread, crackers, muffins, pasta and brown rice.
  • Add nuts, seeds or beans to a green salad.
  • Pack more vegetables into an omelet or casserole, top your pizza with broccoli or spinach and add corn or peas to your favourite soup recipe.

When adding more fibre, do it the right way:

  • Increase your fibre intake slowly to give your digestive system time to adjust. Aim to get your required amount in a few weeks rather than a few days.
  • Drink more fluids since fibre works better when it absorbs water. As a matter of fact, increasing your fibre without increasing fluids could lead to constipation.

What to look for on packaged foods

You can also increase your fibre by being smart about which packaged foods you buy. That means reading the packaging, nutrition label and list of ingredients.

Here’s what you need to know.

Packaging

Packaging claimWhat it means
Very high source of fibreContains more than 6 grams of fibre per serving
High source of fibreContains more than 4 grams per serving
Source of fibreContains more than 2 grams per serving

Nutrition labels

The Nutrition Facts label found on packaged food will list fibre content under “carbohydrates”. You’ll get both the amount of grams and the percentage of the daily value, or recommended daily amount. Cereals vary greatly in the amount of fibre they provide so it’s important to check the nutrition facts before you buy.

List of ingredients

Look for fibre from natural sources. Check the list of ingredients for such things as:

  • Bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Rye
  • Whole wheat

Foods with fibre

Part of making smarter fibre choices is knowing what foods contain the most fibre. Fortunately, these foods are found easily at most supermarkets.


FoodAmountEstimated grams of fibre
LegumesSoybean kernels175 mL (3/4 cup)22.5

Black beans250 mL (1 cup)15.0

Lentils175 mL (3/4 cup)6.2
VegetablesPeas125 mL (1/2 cup)5.6

Brussels sprouts250 mL (1 cup)6.4

Potato (with skin)1 medium4.4

Corn250 mL (1 cup)4.2

Carrot1 medium2.0
FruitPear1 medium5.1

Blueberries250 mL (1 cup)3.5

Apple (with skin)1 medium3.3

Orange1 medium3.1

Kiwi1 large2.7

Banana1 medium2.0
GrainsBran cerealsServing size as specified on package4 to 14 (Check the label!)

Oatmeal250 mL (1 cup)4.0

Whole-wheat bread1 slice2.4

Whole-wheat spaghetti125 mL (1/2 cup)2.4

Brown rice125 mL (1/2 cup)2.0

Rye bread1 slice1.9
Nuts and seedsAlmonds60 mL (1/4 cup)4.1

Sunflower seeds60 mL (1/4 cup)3.8

Peanuts28 nuts2.3

Flax seeds15 mL (1 Tbsp)2.0

 

References
  • British Columbia Ministry of Health: website
  • Canadian Health Network, What is fibre and why is it good for me? website
  • Dietitians of Canada, Fibre Up! website
  • HealthLink Alberta, Capital Health Edmonton Area: website
  • Mayo Clinic: website

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