If you don’t make a point of eating lots of fibre, it’s time to start. According to a recent analysis of studies conducted over the past 40 years, doing so can add years to your life.
And the sweet spot, it seems, is about 30 g of fibre each day.
The fact that fibre is good for you isn’t news. Previous studies have linked a higher fibre diet to protection from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
About the study
The new research, commissioned by the World Health Organization, combined 243 studies to analyze the impact of fibre intake on premature death and the risk of diet-related diseases. It included 185 observational studies and 58 randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of scientific evidence. All in, 4,635 adults were enrolled in the studies.
The findings were published last month in the journal The Lancet and suggest that high-fibre eaters have a 15 to 30 per cent lower risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and cardiovascular-related death compared to people who eat much less fibre.
Study participants whose diets contained the most fibre also had significantly lower body weights, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
The researchers found similar results for higher intakes of whole grains, an important source of dietary fibre.
How much fibre?
The Lancet analysis revealed that consuming 25 to 29 g of fibre per day was protective, but the data suggested that pushing past 30 g could be even more beneficial. Canadians consume, on average, a meager 14 g of fibre each day, one-half of the amount needed to guard against chronic disease.
The research investigated naturally-occurring fibre in whole foods, not isolated fibre added to foods or supplements.
Fibre-rich whole foods retain much of their structure in the gut which helps promote satiety and weight control. Fibre in the gut also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream and slows the rise in blood sugar after eating.
Once in the colon, fibre is digested by gut bacteria. By keeping your gut microbes in a healthy balance, fibre is thought to have wide-ranging beneficial effects including protection from colorectal cancer.
How to eat 30 grams of fibre a day
To consume 30 g of fibre per day, you need to eat whole grains, vegetables and fruits every day.
Go whole grain
Replace refined (white) grains with whole grain versions. Choose 100 per cent whole grain bread with 2 to 3 g of fibre per slice. Look for breakfast cereal with at least 5 g of fibre per serving.
Serve whole grains at meals as a side dish or toss them into salads and stir-frys. Try freekeh (14 g fibre per cup), farro (10 g per cup), bulger (8 g per cup), quinoa (5 g per cup) or brown rice (3.5 g per cup).
Add vegetables & fruit
Bulk up your meals with vegetables. High fibre choices include broccoli, brussels sprouts, snow peas, green peas, Swiss chard, carrots, eggplant and sweet potato.
Enjoy fruit at breakfast, for dessert and as a snack. Blackberries, raspberries, kiwifruit, prunes, figs, pears, apples, apricots, mangos and avocado are fibre-rich.
Include beans, lentils
Eat more plant-based meals with beans and lentils (12 to 16 g per cup) or edamame (8 g per cup).
Meals and snacks with 10 grams of fibre
- One cup oatmeal (4 g) + ¾ cup raspberries (6 g) + 1 tbsp. ground flax (2 g)
- 2 slices of 100% whole grain toast (6 g) + ¼ cup mashed avocado (4 g)
- Omelet w/ ½ cup lentils (8 g) + ¼ cup chopped red pepper (1 g) + ¼ cup cooked spinach (1 g)
- Smoothie w/ 1 medium banana (3 g) + 1/3 cup raw oats (3 g) + 1 tbsp. cocoa (2 g) + 1 tbsp. chia seeds (4 g)
- Salad with 3 cups spinach (2 g) + ¾ cup chickpeas (9 g) + ½ cup sliced strawberries (3 g)
- Whole wheat pasta (6 g per 1 cup cooked) + ½ cup lentils in tomato sauce (5 g)
- Tacos with 2 whole wheat tortillas (2 g) + ½ cup black beans (6.5 g) + ½ cup corn (2 g)
- Salmon + large baked sweet potato with skin (6 g) + 1 cup sautéed Swiss chard (4 g)
- 1 medium pear (5.5 g) + 15 almonds (2.2 g)
- 1 cup carrot slices (3 g) + ¼ cup hummus (3 g)
- 4 cups air-popped popcorn (5 g)
- 4 dried apricots (3 g) + ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (2 g)
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.