“Fibre is a bit of a hero nutrient and the one thing, along with water, that I tell people to make sure they include in their diet,” says nutritionist Amy Savage. “Not only is it essential for regular bowel movements and maintaining a healthy gut, it also helps to reduce cholesterol levels, which can protect against heart disease.” Added nutrition bonus? It helps to keep you fuller for longer, balancing out cravings for high-sugar snacks, adds Savage. “This really highlights the potential fibre has as a weight management tool.”
In fact, a 2019 research review published in The Lancet found that higher intakes of dietary fibre and wholegrains were associated with lower bodyweight and cholesterol, as well as reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal or bowel cancer.
What is the recommended daily fibre intake?
The amount that makes a difference, according to the researchers? At least 25 grams to 29 grams daily, which lines up with the recommended daily fibre intake of 25 grams for women and 30 grams for men.
What is dietary fibre?
Let’s break things down. Fibre basically refers to a type of carbohydrate, the indigestible parts of plant foods. There are different types within that.
First up, soluble fibre, which “dissolves in water and forms a gel,” says Savage. “This process slows digestion, which is a good thing, as this essentially helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer (along with a nice balance of protein and fats). Soluble fibre is broken down and fermented by gut bacteria and this plays a role in additional health benefits such as inhibiting pathogenic bacteria.” You can find soluble fibre in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, legumes and psyllium.
This one’s all about adding bulk to your stools to help keep you regular, explains Savage. "By adding some bulk, this helps to regulate bowel movements and eliminate waste products from the body. Insoluble fibre retains water that helps to soften stools and therefore makes them easier to pass."
Found in certain plant foods including garlic, leeks, artichoke, green banana, oats, brown rice, and cooked-then-cooled potato, this fibre-type is a biggie for researchers, who are looking at its impact on everything from gut health and weight management to heart health and colon cancer prevention. So it’s definitely one to keep on your radar.
Here’s the thing though: despite dietary fibre’s legend status, many of us aren’t getting enough. Want to know how to hit your requirement? Add Savage’s fibre-boosting moves into your nutrition game.
How to increase fibre intake:
1. Love plant foods
What food is fibre found in? “Fibre is found in all plant foods in some quantity but some are higher than others. Variety in your diet is key and including whole grains, legumes like chickpeas, beans and lentils, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.”
2. Put down the peeler
“Keeping the skin on vegetables such as carrots and potatoes increases the amount of fibre. Try unpeeled carrots and hummus as an arvo snack – you have fibre from not only the carrots but the hummus, too.”
3. Think outside the veg box
It’s not just about fruits and veggies. “Chia seeds are actually a really good source of dietary fibre. All nuts and seeds are pretty good sources that might not spring to mind, as well as avocados.” PSA: check out the high-fibre strawberry chia pudding recipe below.
4. Think smoothies over juices
“Adding fruit to smoothies is a great way to boost your intake, as well as a handful of spinach and/or a tablespoon of avocado. Though juices can be a good source of nutrients, the fibre is removed during the juicing process, so smoothies win when it comes to packing in the fibre.”
5. Make healthy additions
“If you buy lunches out, include a side of vegetables and some salad in things like sandwiches. Make sure there are some vegetables and/or grains with your dinner. A rough guide? Go for 2-3 cups of vegetables and ½-1 cup of starchy carbs such as grains or potatoes.”
RELATED: Matcha Mango Smoothie Bowl Recipe
6. Top up that water bottle
“Water and fibre go hand in hand, particularly when it comes to bowel movements, as staying hydrated will help to soften stools.
"Also, good to know: if you don’t currently eat much fibre, start incorporating it into your diet slowly rather than going from zero to 100. Suddenly increasing fibre can cause some digestive symptoms such as some bloating, extra gas or discomfort, so start small and work up.”
Check out Amy Savage’s recipe (with a whopping 15 grams of dietary fibre!) below...
Strawberry Chia Pudding
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tbs strawberry yoghurt (I used Cocobella Strawberry)
1 tbs cashew nuts
1 handful strawberries (approx 5-6 medium sized)
1/ Add chia seeds to a storage jar/container and add almond milk.
2/ Stir thoroughly and add strawberry yoghurt.
3/ Add cashew nuts and thoroughly stir the chia seeds again. They can sometimes gather at the bottom and an extra stir will ensure a nice consistency.
4/ Rinse and chop strawberries and add to the top of the chia mixture. Leave to refrigerate overnight.
Tip: You can also include protein powder – if you do, simply add additional almond milk or water to compensate.
But before you go next-level on a high fibre diet...
Going from no fibre at all to a lot of fibre could put a strain on your digestive system, leading to a blockage situation or, at the other end of the spectrum, diarrhoea. To swerve such issues, increase the amount of fibre in your diet gradually, while upping your fluid intake at the same time. And if your gut has a low tolerance for, well, anything, consult a dietitian as to the best sources of fibre for you. Certain fibre-containing foods can trigger symptoms of IBS, so spread fibre across your meals and focus on foods like oatmeal, barley and fruits, including berries, mangoes and oranges, which should be better tolerated.