Dieticians and doctors all over the world recommend eating food high in fibre. Together with vitamins and protein, fibre is one of the most important nutrients we need to have in our diet. What are the benefits of fibre and why should we all be eating foods that contain it? How can fibre foods help in weight loss and what meals are high in fibre? Find out more about all these questions by simply scrolling down.
What is fibre and why do we need it?
Fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate that is great for the digestive system. While the human body doesn’t actually absorb and digest it, fibre helps to move food through our intestines and expel wastes from our system faster.
You can find fibre in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes.
Top benefits of high fibre foods
Fibre has many qualities that have a positive impact on our health.
Fibre regulates bowel movement.
Because fibre travels through the entire digestive tract in an unchanged state, it helps to prevent constipation, diarrhea, and pain associated with hemorrhoids. So, thanks to fibre, we can keep our bowel movements regular.
Fibre helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Fiber delays the metabolism of carbohydrates by partially blocking glucose from entering the blood. In turn, this reduces insulin secretion and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Fibre is a great tool for losing weight.
Dietary fiber absorbs water, making it swell up and fill the stomach. This reduces the feeling of hunger and holds food in the stomach for longer.
Fibre helps to eliminate toxins from our body.
Thanks to fibre, we can easily get rid of toxins, bile acids, heavy metals (due to the ion-exchange ability of free carboxyl groups) and even carcinogens from the body.
Types of fibre
There are three different types of fibre that we can find in different types of food. Each type has its own unique functions and health benefits. All types of fibre pass through the digestive system without being digested or absorbed into the bloodstream:
- Soluble fibre. You can find this type of fibre in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the stomach. During the digestive process, bacteria break apart this gel-like liquid in the large intestine. This helps to maintain the feeling of a full stomach for longer as the process of emptying the stomach is slowed down. Soluble fibre also stabilises blood glucose levels and helps with lowering cholesterol.
- Insoluble fibre. You can find insoluble fibre in whole grain breads and cereals, seeds, nuts, and fruit and vegetable skins. Insoluble fibre absorbs water, softening the contents of our bowels and helping to support regular bowel movements.
- Resistant starch. This type of fibre can be found in rice, undercooked (al-dente) pasta, under-ripe bananas, potatoes. Resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine. After moving to the large intestine it helps with the production of good bacteria that improve bowel movements.
You can learn more about the different types of fibre on the Nutrition Australia website.
How much fibre do I need?
Everyone needs a different amount of dietary fibre per day depending on their age and sex. According to Health Direct Australia, women should eat around 25g of fibre each day. For men, the amount of recommended fibre in foods is slightly higher at 30g per day.
Children need a little less fibre than adults. Better Health Channel Australia recommends 18g of fibre each day for children aged between 4 and 8. Girls aged 9 to 13 years need 20g per day, while those aged 14 to 18 need 22g per day. Boys aged 9 to 13 years require 24g of fibre per day, while those from 14 to 18 years need 28g per day.
Fibre is even more important for the elderly. As the digestive system slows down with age, a high-fibre diet becomes even more important.
Unfortunately, most Australians eat less fibre in their food than the recommended intake. To make sure your body receives the benefits of fibre, you need to eat high fibre foods that contain different types of fibre and maintain variety in your diet.
Top 10 fibre rich products
Whenever you eat vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and legumes you are taking in some form of dietary fibre. For that reason, it’s always important to include these foods in your diet. But which of these foods contain the most fibre? Check out the top 10 fibre rich foods that can easily boost your fibre intake.
This great ingredient of a healthy breakfast is packed with goodness. Oats are a great source of dietary fibre with 10.6g in every 100g. The fibre you’ll find in oats is soluble fibre, which helps to suppress the appetite and slow down digestion. You’ll also find small amounts of insoluble fibre, helping to maintain regular bowel movements.
Whole wheat products
These are a great alternative to products made with plain flour. Whole wheat products are much healthier with nutrients like protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B and, of course, fibre.
Chickpeas and Lentils
Chickpeas and lentils are a great source of fibre. Chickpeas contain 17g of fibre in every 100g, while lentils have 12g. Both are ‘must haves’ in our daily diet and are packed with protein, making them a great meat replacement for vegans (see: Vegan Burgers Comparison – Which One To Choose?) and vegetarians. With high amounts of calcium and iron, lentils and chickpeas also help to strengthen the bones and prevent osteoporosis. Add them to your soups and salads to easily boost your fibre intake levels.
These are a perfect snack, full of good fats, magnesium, and Vitamin E. You can eat nuts on their own or add them to salads and cakes for an extra boost of fibre. Nuts are a great source of fibre, with pistachios and pecans having the highest amounts with 10g in every 100g. Peanuts contain 9g and almonds 6.8g of fibre in every 100g.
Just like nuts, seeds are a great source of fibre and other nutrients important for good health. Full of omega-3 acids and plant-based proteins, seeds are a substantial addition to every complex diet. You can sprinkle seeds on your salads and stir fries and even mix them in bread dough. Seeds are at the top of the list when it comes to food sources high in fibre. Extremely popular these days, chia seeds contain 39g of fibre in every 100g and flaxseeds 27g. If you experience constipation, add some seeds to your meals to aid the discomfort.
Full of vitamins A, C & K, protein, iron and calcium, spinach is a great source of many important nutrients needed in every healthy diet. Spinach is also high in insoluble fibre, which supports regular bowel movement. Every 100g of spinach contains 2.4g of fibre. The best way to consume spinach is by cooking it so that our body is able to absorb all of its nutrients.
This is a super veggie with its high amount of vitamins, antioxidants, and protein. Broccoli is tasty, low carb and brings a lot of health benefits to boot. It also contains about 10% of an adult’s recommended daily intake of fibre, with 2.6g in every 100g. You can add broccoli to your pasta sauce, cook it into a hearty soup, or simply eat this delicious veggie steamed. Any way is a good way!
This isn’t one of the most popular ingredients to cook with, as many people aren’t quite sure how to prepare artichokes. That said, they are full of great nutrients and vitamins while also being low in calories. In every 100g of artichoke you’ll find 7g of dietary fibre, making it one of the top high-fibre veggies.
Many of us can’t imagine a good brekkie without a classic smashed avo on toast. Avocado is not only one of the most popular Australian breakfast ingredients, but also a great nutrient booster. Just like artichokes, every 100g of avocado contains 7g of fibre, as well as other healthy fats and vitamins.
Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are one of our favourite summer fruits. But their delicious flavour isn’t the only thing berries have going for them! They’re also full of antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese and have strong anti-inflammatory properties. On top of that, berries are high in fibre with raspberries leading the pack at 6.5g of fibre in every 100g. Blackberries are a close second with 5.3g, blueberries have 2.4g, and strawberries contain 2g of fibre in every 100g.
What if I don’t eat enough fibre?
Eating enough fruits and vegetables will help us sustain a good level of fibre. If you find you aren’t eating enough fibre, however, you may face some health problems:
- Constipation. People who don’t eat enough fibre can deal with constipation. Constipation relates to a person having less than three bowel movements a week with hard and dry stools. This is a common issue faced by people who consume a lot of fatty or meaty meals without pairing them with fruit and veg. Lack of exercise is another major factor of constipation. The best way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is by introducing apples, berries, whole grains, and other fibre rich foods in your diet. You also need to remember to drink enough water and get some regular exercise.
- Weight gain. Fibre gives us a feeling of fullness after eating, which in turn helps to reduce appetite by staving off that feeling of hunger which makes us want to eat more. If you want to stay in shape then you should definitely consume lots of vegetables that are high in fibre. These won’t only fill up your stomach but also offer other important nutrients to your body.
- Lower levels of blood sugar. Dietary fibre delays the absorption of sugar, helping to control blood sugar levels. If you eat sugary foods like pastries, cupcakes and lollies without pairing them with high fibre products, the level of sugar in your blood will spike and then suddenly drop as a result of the insulin response. This results in fatigue, blurry vision, and the craving for more sweet foods. If you’re eating enough fibre then sugar is absorbed slower into your body, avoiding drastic changes in blood sugar levels.
Fibre and weight loss
Whether you’re just watching or your weight or you want to shed some kilos, make sure fibre is present in your diet. As mentioned earlier, fibre helps you to feel fuller for longer. As a result, you consume less meals as fibre rich foods sit in your stomach for longer than non-fibrous foods. Even better, most high fibre foods are also low in calories, making it even easier to watch your weight.
Fibre can also help move fat through the digestive system faster, meaning less of it is absorbed in the process. Eating more fruits and vegetables high in fibre also gives your body more energy, making it easier to exercise more often.
How to get enough fibre?
To get enough fibre every day, Cancer Council Australia recommends that you should eat:
- At least 4 serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods every day,
- At least 2 serves of fruit daily,
- At least 5 serves of vegetables daily including legumes,
- Whole foods rather than dietary fibre supplements.
A serve of wholegrain or wholemeal foods is equal to:
- 1 slice of wholegrain bread,
- 1/2 a cup of cooked brown rice or cooked porridge,
- 2/3 cups of whole grain breakfast cereal,
- 1/4 cup of untoasted muesli.
Below is our best advice on how to make sure you eat enough fibre everyday.
Have breakfast that contains fibre
If you like having cereal for brekkie, try to choose a whole grain option or add some oats and berries to your yoghurt or milk.
Prepare fruit and veggie snacks
Prepare small portions of healthy snacks ready to grab from your fridge. You can pre-cut some carrots or wash some strawberries and have them ready to take to work or give to your kids as a little snack.
Replace white rice and pasta with healthier options
Whole wheat pasta and brown rice have much more fibre than the basic options, and they still taste great.
Don’t peel your fruits and veggies
A large amount of the fibre available in fruits and vegetables is contained in the skin. To get the most out of your fruit and veg intake, try to eat them without peeling.
Fruit can be a great dessert
We all love a good muffin or a sweet croissant, but why not try to replace sweets with fruit? They’re still sweet and delicious, but they contain much less calories and lots more healthy fibre.
Let’s add some nuts and seeds to our salads
Even traditional salads taste much more interesting if you add pistachios or pumpkin seeds. This is a great way to introduce some new flavours while adding more fibre to your diet at the same time.
Don’t forget about legumes
Try to add beans, chickpeas and lentils to your meals. They taste great in salads, sauces, and soups, without dramatically changing the flavour or dynamic of a dish. Even adding just one tin of beans to your veggie soups will increase your daily intake of fibre.