Lately, I’ve been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables in an attempt to increase my fibre intake. After all, health and nutrition experts consistently recommend eating more fibre – and for good reason. A high-fibre diet is important for digestion and is believed to promote a healthy diversity of gut microbes. It’s also known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancers.
But even the mountains of carrots, celery sticks and apple slices I diligently devour everyday aren’t enough. According to Health Canada, women need 25 grams and men 38 g of fibre a day. For women, that’s the equivalent of eating more than a dozen medium-sized carrots or 25 large stalks of celery every day.
“It sounds like a lot when you first look at it, but break it down,” suggests registered dietitian Christy Brissette, president of the nutrition and food consulting company 80 Twenty Nutrition.
If I spread that 25 g of fibre across all my meals and snacks, she says, I’d find it far more manageable to reach my fibre goals. For instance, I could choose oatmeal over processed cereal for breakfast, sprinkle a handful of nuts onto my salad for lunch and snack on a banana. Each of these measures may only deliver a couple grams of fibre, but it all adds up.
Brissette explains there are two types of dietary fibre: insoluble fibre, the stuff that provides roughage and can be thought of as “dry” fibre, and soluble fibre, which is more like a gel. Oats, barley and chia seeds are excellent sources of soluble fibre, she says, and beans and lentils are good sources of both types.
While it’s a good idea to include both insoluble and soluble fibre in your diet, Brissette doesn’t recommend getting hung up on keeping a tally of each type. Just focus on hitting the total daily target, she advises.
I’m not alone in struggling to do this. Most Canadians only get half the advised amount of fibre, according to Health Canada.
Brissette offers the following tips: Choose whole grains over refined grains. Vegetables and fruits are important and they should make up half your plate, but they’re not all equal, fibre-wise. Kale and broccoli are higher in fibre than iceberg lettuce, for example. Don’t remove the skins of fruits and vegetables; eating the skin is an easy way to get more fibre. And eat more beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Brissette notes that a cup of cooked beans can get you three-quarters of the way toward your daily fibre needs, while two tablespoons of chia seeds deliver 8 g of fibre.