Boosting your daily fibre intake can help guard against constipation, high cholesterol, weight gain, irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and possibly colon cancer. And recently, a high fibre diet has also been linked to protection from breast cancer.
It's estimated that the average Canadian consumes between 11 and 17 grams of fibre each day - half the amount that's recommended to reap health benefits.
Women aged 19 to 50 are advised to get 25 grams of fibre each day; men require 38 grams. As we get older and our calorie intake decreases, we need less fibre. After 50, women should aim for 21 grams, men 30 grams.
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts contain two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water. Dried peas, beans, and lentils, oats, barley, psyllium husks, apples and citrus fruits are good sources of soluble fibre. Soluble fibre helps to lower blood cholesterol and prevent large rises in blood sugar.
Wheat bran, whole grains, nuts and vegetables contain mainly insoluble fibre. It's this type of fibre that's especially effective at promoting regularity.
Practice the following tips to help you add more fibre to your daily diet. (Increase your fibre intake gradually over a period of weeks to prevent digestive distress. And remember to drink more water as you add fibre to your diet since fibre needs to absorb water in order to work effectively.)
Add 100% bran cereal
Replace ½ cup of your usual ready-to-eat-cereal with ½ cup of 100% bran cereal (12 grams of fibre). Add ¼ cup of bran cereal to a blender smoothie (6 grams). Use bran cereal instead of granola when making yogurt and fruit parfaits.
Replace white with whole grain
Choose 100% whole grain bread with at least 2 grams of fibre per slice. Look for whole grain cereal with at least 5 grams of fibre per serving. Serve whole grain sides at dinner such as brown rice (3.5 grams per 1 cup), bulgur (8.2 grams), buckwheat (3 grams), millet (2.3 grams), and quinoa (5.2 grams).
Sweeten with fruit
Enjoy 1 cup of raspberries or blackberries for dessert (8 grams). Eat a pear as a mid afternoon snack (5 grams). Satisfy your sweet tooth with 3 dates instead of candy or chocolate (5 grams). Other fibre-rich fruit include apples with the skin, dried apricots, blueberries, figs, kiwi, mango and prunes.
Bulk up with vegetables
Serve 1 cup of mashed sweet potato (8 grams) as a change from rice. Top a homemade pizza with 1 cup of steamed broccoli florets (4 grams). Instead of noodles, serve pasta sauce over 2 cups of spaghetti squash (4.3 grams - and only 84 calories!).
Other veggies with at least 5 grams of fibre per ½ cup serving include green peas, snow peas, Swiss chard and a baked potato with the skin.
You'll get 2 to 4 grams of fibre in a ½ cup serving of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, eggplant, green beans, parsnips and mixed (frozen) vegetables.
Pass the beans
Toss ½ cup of chickpeas into a green salad (3 grams). Top pasta with ½ cup of lentils (4.5 grams) and tomato sauce instead of meat sauce. Add ½ cup of black beans to tacos and burritos (6.5 grams). Throw ½ cup of soybeans (5.1 grams) into your next bowl of soup.
For convenience, buy canned beans (they are already cooked). Before adding to a dish, drain them in a colander and rinse under cool running water to remove excess sodium and some of the gas-producing carbohydrates.
Give foods a boost
Add ground flaxseed to cookie, muffin and pancake batters; add 2 tablespoons to a breakfast smoothie (4.5. grams). Mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds (4 grams), raw wheat bran (3 grams) or raw oat bran (2 grams) into a bowl of hot cereal or yogurt.
Instead of potato chips, munch on 4 cups of air-popped popcorn (5 grams) or 1 cup of edamame (8 grams). Crunch 10 baby carrots (4 grams) instead of eating a handful of crackers. Choose whole grain granola and cereal bars with at least 2 grams of fibre per bar (and no more than 8 grams sugar).
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.