Dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of plant food, also known as roughage, which moves food through the digestive system. Fibre is very important in your diet not only to maintain a healthy digestive system, but also because high fibre foods fill you up which will help prevent you from over-eating! Furthermore, clinical studies have shown fibre can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and assist your body with blood sugar level management.
You should aim to eat about 25-30g of fibre each day. Wholegrain breads, cereals, legumes, rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables are all good sources of fibre. Look at the labels of products to check their fibre content and choose foods with at least 1.5 gram of fibre per serve. One serve of baked beans will give you approximately 12g of fibre.
Sadly, fad low-carbohydrate diets have confused people and put them off breads and cereals however it is essential for adults to eat at least six servings per day, preferably whole grain. You should also aim for three servings of vegetables and two of fruit which are also high in fibre.
Tips increase your daily fibre intake:
- Use wholegrain breads
- Add lots of salad ingredients to your sandwiches
- Add fruit, wheat germ, bran or seeds to your cereal in the morning or try banana on wholegrain toast
- Add plenty of vegetables and salad to your dinner
- Keep a bag of corn in the freezer to add to stir-frys and other quick meals
- Add beans to mince dishes, casseroles, soups and salads
- Try baked beans or creamed corn as a topping for baked potatoes
- Try wholemeal pasta and brown rice instead of white
- Snack on raw nuts or fruit e.g. kiwifruit
- Use hummus, salsa or beans dips with wholegrain crackers as a snack
- Eat whole fruits rather than juices or when choosing a freshly squeezed juice make sure it contains the pulp
- Have canned or stewed fruit for dessert
Although fibre is essential to help prevent constipation and bowel disease, be careful not to eat too much fibre as this can cause bloating and diarrhoea and may reduce the absorption of some key nutrients e.g. zinc, iron, calcium.
By Rachel Campbell, Nutritionist