How to Get 35g of Fibre a Day
The importance of dietary fibre is often overshadowed by the glamorous world of superfoods and supplements. However, incorporating an adequate amount of fibre into our daily diet has many benefits, from supporting our digestive health to aiding weight loss. In this post, we'll delve into the benefits of fibre, and I'll walk you through an example of a day's meal plan to help you achieve at least 35g dietary fibre intake.
The Marvels of Fibre
- Champion for Gut Health:
Fibre plays a pivotal role in promoting a healthy gut. It acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in our intestines, allowing them to flourish. A healthy gut microbiome can positively impact digestion, reduce inflammation, and even boost our immune system.
- Smooth Operator for Digestion:
Fibre aids in smooth digestion by adding stool bulk and softening them. This helps prevent constipation and ensures regular bowel movements.
- Weight Loss Ally:
High-fibre foods tend to be more filling, which means you're likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. Plus, they typically have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Daily Fibre Intake Recommendations
In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has provided specific guidelines on the daily dietary fibre intake for optimal health. For Australian men, the recommended daily intake is about 30 grams of fibre, while for women, it stands at around 25 grams.
It's worth noting that these recommendations serve as a baseline for general health maintenance. For individuals aiming for specific health outcomes such as improved gut health or weight management, the targeted intake might differ, as with our 35g daily goal.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre
Both soluble and insoluble fibres play crucial roles in our digestive health, though they function differently in our bodies. Let's break down what each type of fibre is, its benefits, and the foods rich in them.
What is it?
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel-like consistency in our stomachs. This type of fibre can help lower blood cholesterol and stabilise blood sugar levels.
Lowers Blood Cholesterol: Soluble fibre binds to dietary cholesterol, helping to remove it from the body and thus can reduce overall blood cholesterol levels.
Stabilises Blood Sugar: By slowing the absorption of sugar, soluble fibre can help improve blood sugar levels, which is especially beneficial for individuals with diabetes.
Supports Weight Management: Given its gel-forming nature, soluble fibre can make you feel full longer, reducing overall calorie intake.
Plant Food Sources:
Fruits: Apples, pears, and citrus fruits.
Vegetables: Carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
Grains: Oats, oat bran, barley, and psyllium.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
What is it?
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water. Instead, it remains relatively intact as it moves through the digestive system. It adds bulk to stools and is especially beneficial for those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools.
Promotes Regular Bowel Movements: Insoluble fibre helps increase the weight and size of your stool and soften it. This can promote more regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Supports Gut Health: This type of fibre feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy gut microbiome.
Reduces Risk of Digestive Disorders: Regular consumption of insoluble fibre can reduce the risk of developing certain conditions, like diverticular disease.
Plant Food Sources:
Whole Grains: Whole wheat, brown rice, and wheat bran.
Vegetables: Green beans, dark leafy vegetables, and root vegetable skins.
Nuts & Seeds: Although they have smaller amounts, seeds and nuts are also good sources.
To reap the maximum health benefits, it's essential to include both soluble and insoluble fibres in your diet. Most plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, contain both types in varying amounts. By ensuring a diverse intake of these foods, you'll be providing your body with a rich source of fibre to support digestion, heart health, and overall well-being.
Here are some intriguing facts and insights about dietary fibre:
Not All Created Equal: There's not just one type of fibre. Beyond the common categories of soluble and insoluble fibres, there are also fermentable fibres and resistant starches. The former serves as food for gut bacteria, while the latter resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine.
Fibre & Gut Bacteria: The gut microbiota, which contains trillions of bacteria, plays a significant role in our health. Some fibres are fermented by these bacteria into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs, like butyrate, propionate, and acetate, have numerous benefits, including reducing inflammation and offering protection against certain cancers.
Fibre & Satiety: Fibre-rich foods often have a low energy density. This means they provide fewer calories than the same weight of other higher-calorie foods. Besides making you feel full, they also require more chewing, giving your body more time to realise it's no longer hungry.
Historical Fibre Intake: Our ancestors consumed much more fibre than we do today. Some experts estimate that Paleolithic humans consumed upwards of 100 grams of fibre daily from a variety of plant sources, a stark contrast to today's average intake.
Global Intake Variances: The average fibre intake varies widely by country. Often, countries with more traditional diets rich in legumes, grains, and vegetables have higher fibre intakes than Western countries that have embraced more processed foods.
Natural vs. Added Fibres: Not all fibres you find in products are naturally occurring. There's a rise in the use of functional or isolated fibres in processed foods, such as inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose. While these can offer some effects, the health benefits may not be as profound as naturally occurring fibres in fruits and vegetables.
Colour & Fibre: When thinking about vegetables and fruits, remember that deeper colors often signify higher fibre content. For instance, a sweet potato has more fibre than a regular white potato.
Fibre & Water Relationship: Fibre and water work in tandem. Soluble fibre absorbs water to become gel-like, aiding in satiety, while insoluble fibre combined with water adds bulk to stools. Thus, when increasing fibre intake, it's crucial to drink sufficient water.
Fibre's Role in Detoxification: Fibre aids in the body's natural detoxification process. By binding with waste and toxins in the digestive tract, fibre helps eliminate them through regular bowel movements.
Fibre for Longevity: Regular fibre intake is associated with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Thus, consistent consumption can play a role in longevity.
Incorporating a wide range of fibrous foods ensures not only a diversity of fibres but also a rich array of accompanying nutrients and phytochemicals that contribute to overall health.
Achieving 35g of Fibre Daily
If you're pushing for a little more to reap its optimal benefits, here's how you can achieve 35g of fibre in your daily meals.
Sample Meal Plan
Overnight Chia Pudding:
Chia seeds (2 tbsp) - 10g fibre
Almond milk (1 cup)
Fresh berries (1/2 cup) - 4g fibre
A sprinkle of nuts or granola for extra crunch and flavour
Quinoa Salad Bowl:
Cooked quinoa (1 cup) - 5g fibre
Mixed greens (2 cups) - 2g fibre
Chickpeas (1/2 cup) - 6g fibre
Assorted veggies like capsicum, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes
A drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice
Carrot Sticks with Hummus:
Carrots (1 cup) - 3.5g fibre
Hummus (3 tbsp) - 2g fibre
Stir-Fried Veggies & Tofu with Brown Rice:
Mixed veggies including broccoli, snap peas, and capsicum - 4g fibre
Tofu (1/2 cup) - 1.5g fibre
Brown rice (1 cup) - 3.5g fibre
Dark Chocolate (1 ounce): 2g fibre
Total fibre for the day: 41.5g
Note: Fibre content may vary based on preparation methods and specific product brands.
Fibre, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Supplements
If you're dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), your relationship with fibre might be a bit complicated. While fibre is generally good for digestion, some types can exacerbate IBS symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. Soluble fibre is generally better tolerated and can help regulate bowel movements, making foods like oats and peeled apples good choices. On the other hand, insoluble fibre found in whole grains and vegetables can sometimes worsen symptoms. Fibre supplements like partially hydrolysed guar gum or psyllium husk can also be a convenient way to increase your fibre intake.
Including fibre in our daily diet isn’t as daunting as it seems. With a bit of planning, we can not only meet but exceed our target. Remember, while the goal is to boost fibre intake, it’s also essential to increase water consumption alongside to help your digestive system manage the additional fibre. Happy eating!