You Need More Fibre! Here’s Why...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 2:25pm

By Dietitic Interns Andrea MacDonald and Deidra Smith

You might have already heard the news: on average, Canadians are not eating nearly enough fibre. Fibre is an important player in the prevention of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. But what exactly is fibre, and how much of it should the average Canadian be consuming?

First, there is more than one type of fibre. Functional fibre is fibre that has been artificially created or isolated and added to foods for specific characteristics.

Dietary fibre is the kind that occurs naturally in plant foods. Both functional and dietary fibres can be described as either “soluble” or “insoluble”. Soluble fibre helps food form a gel-like matrix in the digestive tract. Natural sources of soluble fibres include oats, legumes and apples. Insoluble fibres act to bulk up food, and pass through the digestive tract mostly unchanged. Insoluble fibre can be found in multiple types of bran (i.e. wheat bran or corn bran) and fruits and vegetables with skins.

Health Canada recommends that healthy adults should consume at least 25 grams of fibre a day, and up to 38 grams a day for men. However, research has shown that most Canadians may only be consuming about half of the recommended fibre intake.

When increasing your daily intake of fibre it is important to do so gradually, spread it out over the day, and also increase your intake of fluids. Here are some simple ways to increase your daily intake of fibre:

  • Replace white breads, pastas and rice with whole grain products
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables
  • Compare labels on foods such as cereal and granola bars, and choose one higher in fibre. (Look for products that advertise “high in fibre”, or “very high in fibre”.)
  • Add beans and legumes into meals

Here is an example of how to incorporate 25 grams of fibre over one meal day*:

  • Breakfast: 1/2 cup oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of raisins or dried cranberries (5-6 grams fibre)
  • Lunch: 1 medium apple with skin, 1/4 cup hummus, 1 large whole wheat pita bread (10 grams fibre)
  • Snack: 1 cup mixed raw vegetables (with or without dip), 15-20 natural almonds (6-8 grams fibre)
  • Supper: 1 medium sweet potato with skin (boiled or baked), 1 cup raw spinach (4-5 grams fibre)
    *These examples are meant to be supplemented with additional foods from each of the four food groups.

Adequate fibre is beneficial to both your long-term and short-term health. One of the short-term benefits is that it will help keep you full and satisfied after a meal. In the long-term, studies show that people who eat adequate fibre are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.