Despite its popular association with trips to the restroom, fibre is no joke. The benefits of an efficient bowel aside, a high-fibre diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, the UK’s fibre consumption is currently below average. The British Nutrition Foundation reported that the average woman in the UK only consumes 17.2g of fibre per day and men 20.1g when the RDI is 30g per day!
So with that in mind, here are the top ten ways to increase your daily fibre intake – and it's super easy...
All beans are high in fibre whilst also providing us with a source of protein and a good mixture of vitamins, however, some beans rank higher in the fibre scale than others! The top five fibre rich bean options: Haricot beans, Adzuki beans, Red Kidney beans, Pinto beans and Black Beans.
Add these easily into soups, stews, salads or blend them up to make a fibre rich and tasty dip for your vegetables.
2. Other Legumes – lentils, peas
Other legumes such as lentils, split peas and peas are high in fibre, deliver a good source of complex carbohydrates, protein and are low in those harmful fats such as trans fats. Just half a cup of cooked lentils can provide ½ of our RDI of fibre! Like legumes, chuck them in soups, salads and cooked dishes. Indian cuisine utilises a lot of lentils and peas, so whip up a warming dhal to get your fibre portion for the day.
3. Whole grains
Swapping out any white refined flours for wholegrain alternatives can help increase the amount of fibre you are consuming, without having to add anything additional to your plate!
Look out for pasta made from whole-wheat or naturally gluten free pasta such as brown rice, quinoa or spelt. If you usually eat white rice, switch it up for brown, wild or black rice or swap for pseudo-grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.
4. Vegetables – Broccoli, Artichoke, Squash, Okra
Artichoke packs more fibre than any of the other veggies out there, but it can be hard to dissect and sizable to cook! Okra also known as ladies’ fingers, broccoli and Brussel sprouts all provide a great amount of fibre.
In general, eat the skins of your veggies if you want to increase your fibre intake. Eat the skin of your baked sweet potato and rather than peeling your courgettes and carrots, wash them thoroughly and enjoy them in their whole entirety.
5. Fruits – Raspberries, Pears, Figs, Avocado
The same with vegetables, all fruits have some fibre in them and especially in their skins and cores. Raspberries win the fibre race with 8g of fibre per 125g serving - around one small punnet. Other fibre fun fruits include pears, figs and avocados.
Oats are a fantastic source of fibre. One special fibre found in oats called beta-glucan, has had research to show that it can help contribute to the reduction in cholesterol, reduced blood sugar levels, boost our immune system, control our insulin response and can help boost our friendly bacteria that reside in the gut.
7. Seeds – Chia and Flax
Many seeds are nutritional giants including pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia and hemp seeds. Think of them as pint-sized foods with super-sized benefits!
In particular, when it comes to fibre, chia seeds and flax seeds are the winners. One tablespoon of chia seeds provides 5g of fibre, so get your hands on a chia seed pudding (which normally consists of four tablespoons of chia seeds) or make your own to hit your daily intake of fibre in just one meal.
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, filled with essential nutrients, fats, protein and… fibre! It is best to eat nuts in their whole form to get the fibre intake, so, unfortunately, your almond butter addiction might need to be substituted for the real whole nut deal. Topping the nut fibre chart is chestnuts (perfect as we come into winter season), almonds, pistachios and pecans. A small handful of nuts (25g) will give you about 3-4g of fibre.
Now when we say popcorn contains fibre, that doesn’t mean you should be chowing down a giant bag of caramel popcorn! Popcorn is high in fibre, and in particular insoluble fibre, so it helps increase transit time in our intestines and acts as a bulking agent. However, we need to make sure we are choosing our popcorn wisely – use a small amount of healthy oils to cook them and flavour with natural spices such as cinnamon and paprika.!
10. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is often recommended to those who suffer from constipation or need help getting their bowels moving. It is often consumed as a powder and added to foods or drinks. It works by soaking up water in our stomachs and promoting regularity without causing gas or bloating.
Psyllium husk can be added to smoothies, breads, cakes and breakfast bowls and provides 6g of fibre per teaspoon!
By Clarissa Lenherr, Nutritional Therapist