Increasing your fibre intake is one of the best diet tips out there, yet many of us overlook it. Also, fibre can help prevent some pretty major health problems – and yet we’re only eating about 60% of the amount we need! Let us surprise you with how easy it is to hit your full target…
Given that fibre isn’t exactly the ‘sexiest’ ingredient, and that an increasing number of us are turning to a gluten-free diet, perhaps it’s no shock that most South Africans only get about 18g a day when we should actually be aiming for at least 30g! Luckily, once you know where to find it, getting enough fibre in your diet isn’t that difficult.
Why fibre is important in our diet
There is strong evidence that a diet rich in fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. There are two different types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Each type helps your body in different ways…
Soluble fibre, as the name suggests, can be digested by your body. It plays a role in reducing the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and also helps ease constipation.
Find it in oats, barley, rye, nuts, fruit such as bananas and apples, and root veg. Insoluble fibre passes through your gut without being broken down and helps other foods move through your digestive system more easily. Find it in wholewheat bread, bran, cereals, brown rice and seeds.
If you’re following a gluten-free diet, try Wholesome Earth Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats, R56,95. They’re still high in fibre and will keep you fuller for longer.
Foods high in fibre take longer to digest, which will help you feel fuller for longer on fewer kilojoules, so they’re a good ally if you want to lose weight. *Always increase your fibre intake gradually, or it might make you more ‘windy’ and bloated, and cause stomach cramps. Make sure you drink plenty of water, too – around 1,2 litres (six to eight glasses) a day.
How to fibre-fill your day
Always opt for wholewheat or granary breads, and choose wholegrains such as barley, bulgar wheat, brown rice, or wholewheat pasta. If you’re avoiding gluten, there are 100% rye breads, maize pastas, and brown-rice flours – so there’s no excuse!
Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal, such as bran flakes and corn flakes, plain wholewheat cereal (like Weet-Bix); or porridge such as Jungle Oats, which is also a good source of fibre. Two thick slices of toasted wholewheat bread (3,8g fibre) topped with one small sliced banana (2,6g), and a small glass of fruit smoothie drink (1,5g) give you nearly a third of your daily fibre.
If you’re not a fan of bran flakes, sprinkle a little Digestive Bran, from Health Connection Foods, R21,50 for 500g, over yoghurt or fruit for an added fibre kick.
Pack a salad with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, avocado, celery, and tomatoes (skin on!); and, if you can, include beans, too (kidney beans go great with tuna). Tuck into a baked jacket potato (2,6g), topped with a 200g portion of baked beans in tomato sauce (12g), followed by a medium-sized apple (4,4g), and you’re well on your way to your target.
Any pulses, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, are brilliant; add to stews and curries (you could always add a side dish of dal). Include plenty of veg with meals, either as a side or added to dishes – finely chop up into a cottage pie, bolognaise, etc. – a single cup of cooked carrots on its own will add about 5g of fibre! Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, but it’s a fab source of fibre – when cooked, it has 5,2g of fibre in a 185g portion. Mixed-vegetable curry (3,3g) with brown rice (2,8g), followed by a fruit yoghurt (2,3g), will give you 8,4g of fibre. Hey, target reached! This is before you’ve even added in snacks for the day.
We know that quinoa is pricey, but Clicks Smartbite Foods Quinoa, R84,99, comes in at under R100 for 400g. We love quinoa because it’s not only rich in fibre, but high in plant protein too, making it a wonderful grain to include in your diet.
Eat fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, and unsalted nuts or seeds. Almonds, pecans and walnuts contain more fibre than other varieties of nuts. A handful of nuts can have up to 5g of fibre. A 50g portion of dried figs has 2g; 1 medium pear has 5,5g.
Sprinkle those seeds
Tiny chia seeds have 10,6g of fibre per 28g, and the gel coating that forms around them when they come into contact with liquids helps waste move through your digestive tract. Try adding chia seeds to yoghurt, cereals and smoothies.
Try Superfoods Organic Chia Seeds, R79,95, which are rich in omega-3s.