foods that are high in fibre: how to add more fibre to your diet

With the fast-paced lifestyle that so many of us lead today, we often reach for foods that are convenient and quick to consume. Unfortunately, many of these foods are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates and low in fibre. But why do we even need fibre in our diets? What’s all the fuss about? And what foods are high in fibre?

Why is it important to eat a high fibre diet?

Fibre is an important part of our diets as it contributes to several health benefits such as:

  • Fibre helps to maintain proper digestion and elimination and thus prevents constipation.
  • Fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol levels and stabilise blood sugar levels, which reduces cardiovascular and diabetic risk.
  • High-fibre diets have been shown to contribute to weight loss.
  • A fibre-rich diet promotes a healthy gut environment, which contributes to preventing many chronic lifestyle diseases – a healthy gut even improves mental states of mine such as anxiety and depression.

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What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre?

There are two main types of fibre: Soluble and Insoluble fibre. Both play an important role in health and it is recommended that we all eat a balance of both types. Most high-fibre foods naturally contain both fibres.

Insoluble Fibre: Contains cellulose which helps to keep you regular and is found in some vegetables and fruit (particularly the skins), whole grains, corn, tomatoes and nuts.

Soluble Fibre: Includes pectins and beta glucans which are found in foods like apples, pears, bananas, carrots, legumes and oats.

What foods are high in fibre?

  • Wholegrains such as barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice, spelt, sorghum, popcorn, wheat bran, wholegrain breads and cereals, whole wheat pastas and couscous, potato with the skin on, sweet potato.
  • Legumes such as dried beans, lentils, split peas, and chickpeas.
  • Chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts and other seeds.
  • Fruit and vegetables, especially those with the skin on.

How much fibre should I be eating every day?

Adult females should be aiming to eat at least 25g of fibre a day, while men should be aiming for 38g of fibre per day. A general guideline for children is their age +5g, so a 2 year old should aim for 7g a day.

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Sample menu: how to get to your recommended fibre intake for the day

It’s easier than you think once you know which foods are rich in fibre.

Breakfast

 

½ cup cooked oats

with 1 grated apple

1Tbs chia seeds

2g

3.3g

5g

Snack

 

1 cup homemade popcorn 2g
Lunch Baked potato with skin on

Stuffed with lean mince + ½ cup lentils/ beans added to the mince

Side salad with 1 cup lettuce

3.3g

 

7.8g

0.9g

Snack ½ cup plain yoghurt with

½ cup berries

 

4g

Supper ½ cup brown rice

1 grilled chicken breast/steamed fish

½ cup broccoli, ½ cup carrots and peas mixed

1.2g

2.8g

2.5g

TOTAL FIBRE 34.8g

 

foods that are high in fibre: how to add more fibre to your diet

Fibre: How to read a food label 

There are many food products that contain ‘wholegrains’ in the ingredient list but are not high in fibre, which can be misleading. It is always best to check a food label for the fibre content. A food is considered to be high in fibre if it has 6g/100g of fibre in the product. Aim to get 3g of fibre per serving.

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How to include more fibre in your diet

Add fibre to your diet slowly, adding too much fibre too quickly may cause bloating, discomfort and constipation. Remember to also drink plenty of liquids when eating high-fibre foods to prevent constipation, and engage in regular physical activity.

  1. Include fruits in your daily diet as a snack or added to your breakfast e.g. Puree berries/sliced banana or grated apple added to your breakfast oats.
  2. Eat the skins of fruits and vegetables where possible, such as a baked potato with skin or an apple with the skin on.
  3. Aim for ½ your lunch plate to be vegetables or salad.
  4. Give preference to whole grains over refined carbohydrates e.g brown rice over white rice or choose wholewheat pasta over white pasta.
  5. Snack on veggie sticks with a low fat dip.
  6. Include fruit as a dessert such as a baked apple, poached pear, fruit salad or a fruit smoothie bowl.
  7. Start your day with a high-fibre breakfast option such as cooked oats, a fruit smoothie with raw oats added, high-fibre cereal or wholegrain toast.
  8. Add legumes like lentils, chickpeas or beans to salads, mince, soups and stews.
  9. Add chia seeds or flaxseeds to your oats, yoghurt or smoothie.
  10. Add a handful of nuts to your favourite dish, such as unsalted cashews added to a stir fry or toasted nuts added to your salad.
  11. Add bell peppers, mushrooms and tomato to your egg breakfast and serve with a slice of low GI/wholegrain toast.

References

  1. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040212p40.shtml
  2. https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Fibre/Focus-on-Fibre.aspx
  3. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040212p40.shtml
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
  5. https://foodfacts.org.za/fibre-in-foods/
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14400-improving-your-health-with-fiber
  7. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html?start=1
  8. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fibre.htm
  9. http://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/healthsciences/nicus/how-to-eat-correctly/nutrients/fibre
Kelly is a registered dietitian and owner of Smart Eating Registered Dietitians Kelly is a registered dietitian in private practice. She gained valuable experience in the government and private sector before starting her own practice, ‘Smart Eating’, in 2015. She is currently a guest lecturer to the third-year dietetics students at the University of Pretoria and consults from practices in Houghton and Fourways and Morningside Mediclinic. Since becoming a mom in 2019, Kelly feels passionate about educating and informing other moms on nutrition-related topics and empowering them to provide a healthy balanced diet for the whole family. Kelly understands the stress and pressure that come with being a working mom and she supports her clients and assists them to achieve sustainable health goals. In her private capacity, Kelly enjoys baking, travelling and spending time with family and friends.