Dietary Fibre: How to Increase Your Fibre Intake On The Daily

by | Sep 20, 2019

Sure, it may not have the street cred of protein or fat but, when it comes to nutrition all-stars, dietary fibre deserves its spot in the healthy hall of fame.

“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.

RELATED: 4 Things That Could Be Causing Your Gut Issues

how to increase fibre intake

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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.

Soluble fibre

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.

Insoluble fibre

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.” 

Resistant starch

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.

RELATED: This Dietitian Wants You To Embrace The F-Word For Your Gut

how to increase fibre intake

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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 

strawberry chia pudding

Amy Savage

Ingredients:

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)

Method: 

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.

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‘After 3 Miscarriages, This is How I Processed the Trauma’

With October marking International Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, we spoke to survivor of multiple miscarriages and women's health lobbyist Samantha Payne, CEO and Co-Founder of Pink Elephants - Australia’s only national support service dedicated solely to miscarriage and early pregnancy loss.

Here's her story.

What is your experience with miscarriage?

I have lost 3 babies to miscarriage, my first was a missed miscarriage - I walked into a scan expecting to show my then-toddler her baby sibling on the screen only to be met with 'I'm sorry there is no heartbeat.' I had to endure a weekend with that baby dead inside of me before I could be fitted in for a D&C.

My next miscarriage happened 6 months later - I started to bleed on holiday with friends, I told no one, I was deeply ashamed. I passed that baby alone in the shower at 3am, forever traumatised as I had to flush the remains down the toilet.

My final loss was just last year another miscarriage I started to spot and I just knew, the Doctor that saw me this time asked if we could see a flicker on the screen she thought there was a heartbeat, astounded we asked for a second opinion, where it was confirmed my baby had died.

How did you process the trauma?

With my first two losses, I didn't cope. I poured everything into Pink Elephants and having another baby. I had another pregnancy but was completely terrified the whole time, I didn't bond with this baby, no names, no gender reveal, wearing a brave face every day pretending I was grateful. When Johnny was 4 months old it all caught up with me: I had postpartum anxiety and post-traumatic stress as a result of my losses and not processing the trauma. With counselling and medication, I began to heal and process my losses. My loss last year was different: I took bereavement leave, I gave myself permission to grieve our baby girl and mourn my future with her. I spoke with others in our community, I went back to counselling, and I took the time I needed to start to heal.

How did you get the courage to launch Pink Elephants?

I don't think it was courage, in the beginning, I think it was my anger at the lack of support and validation that I chose to channel into something positive.

I never want my daughter to go through what I did in the way I did. Women deserve so much more than what we currently get.

Last year took courage to come back and work in this space again after bereavement leave - the physical and emotional pain was real, the triggers of other women's stories are real but they are also cathartic. As is the change we create, I feel like my work is meaningful and makes a difference that's what carries me on, I know we can do so much more with the right support alongside us.

I want to next see more targeted action from our government - in particular the Department of Health - in addressing this issue. It's no longer ok to turn a blind eye to the death of our babies, our trauma, and our poor mental health because of the system failing us.

How can we support a friend that has been through loss like this?

You can be there for her, you can validate her loss, don't reduce it to 'at least' comments. You can't take away her pain but you can provide a safe space for her to share and feel listened to, empathised with, and supported. Like any other bereavement send flowers, we have collaborated on a LVLY nurture flower posy as a way to do this. Remember there is no timeline to grief and it's ok for her to still be upset for many months after, remember her due date, acknowledge it at the time, support her through other friends' baby showers.

How can women experiencing miscarriage access support?

They can head to www.pinkelephants.org.au to access our circle of support, which includes online peer support communities to connect with others through miscarriage, trying to conceive again, and pregnancy after loss. Specialised emotional support content, as well as shared stories and journeys, can be accessed through our website too.