Fibre, also known as roughage, is the parts of plant foods that can’t be digested or absorbed by the body. It is an essential part of our diet. Fibre works to support gut health, keeps us ‘regular’ and promotes health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, most Australians don’t manage to eat enough fibre. It’s not surprising - it can be tricky to navigate the different types of dietary fibre, and to pick the right foods to quickly and easily boost your daily intake.
The good news is that fibre rich foods fit well within a healthy, balanced diet. There are just a few tricks to choosing foods that have a high percentage of fibre.
The benefits of fibre
We know that a high fibre diet is good for us, but knowing all the benefits might make it easier to choose high fibre foods.
- The most obvious benefits of fibre are for the digestive system. Fibre adds bulk to your stool and keeps it moving, which stimulates regular, healthy bowel movements.
– Some fibre rich foods contain prebiotics, which boost probiotics, or the ‘good bacteria’, in your gut. This is why having a high fibre diet is one of the top ways to improve your gut health
- Fibre is also important in maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
- Eating high fibre foods can also help with maintaining a healthy weight. Foods that are high in fibre make you feel fuller for longer, without necessarily adding extra calories.
Blood sugar levels
– Fibre slows the digestion of carbohydrates and absorption of glucose. This helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Types of fibre in food
There are different types of dietary fibre which have different functions and benefits, so it’s important to include all of them in your diet.
Insoluble fibre passes through our system without being broken down. It adds bulk to stools and keeps things moving, thus the regularity benefit of fibre. Insoluble fibre is found in wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and the skins of fruit and vegies.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel which keeps your bowel content soft. It’s the type of fibre that lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes.
Resistant starch passes through the digestive system to the large intestine, where it ferments. This is where prebiotics come in, promoting gut health. Resistant starch can be found in unprocessed cereals and grains, under-cooked pasta, unripe bananas, potatoes, lentils and rice.
How much fibre should you eat per day?
The recommended intake of fibre is 30g/day for men and 25g/day for women.
Australians are recommended to consume the following amounts of fibre:
- Women: 25g of fibre per day
- Men: 30g of fibre per day
This roughly translates to the foods below:
- At least 4 serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods every day
- At least 5 serves of vegetables, including legumes, daily
- At least 2 serves of fruit each day
But, with most of us not getting enough fibre, this seems to be easier said than done. So, let’s look closer at the specific foods that will most efficiently ensure you hit your fibre goals.
High fibre foods
High fibre foods are predominantly plant based, such as vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes and nuts and seeds.
When it comes to grains, it’s important to choose wholegrains and wholemeal foods whenever you can. These contain the outer layer of the grain, including the bran and germ. They also are excellent sources of vitamins and other nutrients. Wholegrain foods include oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, barley, buckwheat, polenta and corn.
Non-wholegrain products, like white bread and many types of pastas and biscuits, generally offer comparably few benefits. These days though, some manufacturers add dietary fibre to these types of food, which is a slight advantage.
Likewise, not vegetables are created equal in terms of fibre. We’ve included our fave in the list below – they pack a good fibre-punch per serve and are easy to find.
7 high fibre foods to eat every day
To help meet your fibre requirements, include these seven foods high in fibre in your daily regimen. They’re easy to find at the supermarket, simple to swap into your current diet and are generally inexpensive.
Oats, a popular pantry staple, are a cheap and simple way to boost your fibre intake.
They’re great for breakfast, which is an ideal time to get a good hit of fibre. A bowl of oat muesli or porridge, or our yummy oat banana pancakes
will keep you feeling full through to your next meal.
A 40g serve provides 3.7g of fibre and whether you choose the quick-cooking variety, rolled oats or steel cut, they’re economical and are 100 per cent whole grain.
Green leafy vegetables
There’s a good reason green leafy vegetables are often labelled an everyday superfood.
Adding a daily dose of these verdant veggies, such as broccoli, spinach or kale, will not only give you good dose of fibre, but they’re also a healthy antioxidant and nutrient boost.
One cup of raw broccoli, for example, provides around 2.5g of fibre. And don’t throw out the stem – instead slice it and enjoy it raw, in salads, blended in your favourite pesto or added to stir fries.
As well as being incredibly versatile, chia seeds pack a nutritious punch offering the all-important omega-3 fatty acids as well as being an excellent source of fibre.
Sprinkle them over your cereal, salads, soups or add to smoothies to make sure you enjoy all they have to offer.
One tablespoon of chia seeds provides around 4.5g of fibre.
They’re packed with healthy fats, fibre and protein, as well as health-promoting antioxidants and nutrients.
Including a small handful of nuts every day will help you on your way to achieving good health and wellbeing.
Enjoy the goodness of nuts as a snack, in baking or as a spread. A 30g small handful of nuts provides around 2-3g of fibre.
A simple swap from white bread to wholegrain varieties, such as rye, multigrain, seeded and wholemeal, will give your fibre intake a boost as well as helping to better satisfy your appetite.
When you’re doing the shopping, make sure you choose one that has more than 3g of fibre per slice.
Once a hipster superfood, now a pantry staple, quinoa is a high-fibre, gluten-free and nutrient-rich seed.
A higher protein, omega-3-containing alternative to rice, it’s easy to digest and low in allergens, making it a great choice for the whole family. Check out our nourishing quinoa bowl recipe, which also contains fibre rich spinach
A 100g serve of cooked quinoa, around half a cup, offers approximately 3g of fibre.
Seasonal fresh fruit is an easy and delicious way to keep up the fibre intake.
Aim for two serves of fruit every day and enjoy the peel where you can, such as the skin on an apple or pear, as it’s a great source of fibre and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.
High fibre diet tips
Keeping your fibre intake up to speed doesn’t have to be a weekly drama. With just a few simple additions or changes to your daily habits, you can deliver the fibre your body needs and then reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing
- When shopping for bread, pasta, biscuits and flour, choose wholegrain varieties. Swap white rice for brown rice or quinoa
- Look at the nutrition information on packaged foods. Foods with 4g of fibre per serving is a good fibre source and over 7g is an excellent fibre source
- Start the day right with a high fibre breakfast, containing oats, quinoa, barley or whole wheat
- During the day, snack on a serve of fruit or a small handful of nuts and seeds
- Add legumes to meals or swap them for meat
- Add an extra vegetable to as many meals as you can. One option is to add grated vegies to pancakes or wholegrain muffin recipes
- Garnish salads, cereal or yogurt with a sprinkle of bran, psyllium husk or chopped nuts
- If you’re working from a low fibre base, gradually increase your intake over two or three weeks. This will help avoid bloating and wind that can come with a sudden increase in dietary fibre
- Be sure to drink enough water to keep all that fibre moving through your digestive system
- As you age, digestion can slow down which may lead to a less regular bowel making it particularly important to have a fibre rich diet later in life
Share your high-fibre tips – the quick and easy things you do to increase your fibre intake. Leave a comment below to help others out!