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There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Both are present in varying proportions in different foods, but some foods can be rich in one or the other.Ted Johns/Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’re like many Canadians, you might not give much thought to the fibre content of your meals.

But you should.

This overlooked nutrient is tied to a whole host of health benefits. A high-fibre diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer and diverticulitis.

Fibre lowers LDL cholesterol, dampens inflammation and keeps you feeling full longer. It also feeds good gut bacteria and, of course, promotes regularity.

Not surprisingly, research suggests that eating fibre-rich diet can help you live a longer life in good health.

Here’s a guide to how much fibre you need each day, plus suggestions of fibre-packed foods to help you meet your daily target.

What exactly is fibre?

Dietary fibre is a carbohydrate in plant foods that the body can’t break down. Instead it passes through the digestive tract undigested.

There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Both are present in varying proportions in different foods, but some foods can be rich in one or the other.

Soluble fibre, plentiful in oats, barley, lentils, eggplant and sweet potatoes, dissolves in water to form a sticky gel-like substance. This fibre slows down digestion, helps lower LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and slows the rise in blood sugar after eating.

Wheat bran, whole grains, nuts, seeds and many fruits and vegetables contain mainly insoluble fibre, the type that adds bulk to stool, helping it pass more quickly through the intestinal tract.

How much fibre?

Daily recommended intakes for fibre, published in 2005 by the U.S.-based Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Medicine), were based on the amount of fibre found to guard against coronary heart disease.

Adults, ages 19 to 50, are advised to consume 25 g (women) and 38 g (men) of total fibre each day. Older women and men should consume 21 and 30 grams daily, respectively.

More recent research suggests that, to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer and to promote longevity, adults should aim for a fibre target of 30 g per day.

It’s estimated that most Canadians only get about half this much fibre, 14 g each day. Ditto for Americans.

Fibre-rich foods to include in your diet (other than bran)

To up your fibre intake, include a variety of plant foods in your regular diet such as whole grains (farro, bulgur, quinoa and barley are excellent fibre sources), vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.

While not an inclusive list, the following foods will put a sizable dent in you daily fibre target and, at the same time, deliver a hefty amount of other vital nutrients.


One-half of this nutritious fatty fruit (100 g) serves up 7 g of fibre, the bulk (pardon the pun) of it is insoluble fibre.

Along with fibre, you’ll get plenty of blood-pressure-regulating potassium and 20 per cent of a day’s worth of folate, a B vitamin used to make and repair DNA in cells. And two-thirds of the fat in an avocado is anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat.

Black beans

One cup of these dark purple beans contains 15 g of filling-fibre, one-third of it soluble fibre. A one-cup serving is also an exceptional source of folate (256 mcg, two-thirds of a days’ worth) and potassium (611 mg; the daily requirement for women is 2600 mg and 3400 mg for men).

Chia seeds

Two tablespoons of these tiny seeds offer an impressive 10 g of fibre. Plus, you’ll also get 5 g of protein, 180 mg of calcium and 95 mg of magnesium. (Women and men need 320 and 420 mg of magnesium, respectively.)

Chia seeds are also an outstanding source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat; you’ll find more than one day’s worth in a tablespoon.


This fruit (and blackberries) provides 8 g of fibre per one cup. Raspberries are also an excellent source of antioxidants thanks to their content of vitamin C (32 mg per cup) and phytochemicals called anthocyanins and ellagic acid.

Acorn squash

When it comes to winter squash, you can’t beat this one for its fibre content. One cup roasted acorn squash (cubed) delivers 9 g of fibre, three-quarters of the amount that’s in a serving of 100 per cent bran cereal.

A one cup serving is supplies plenty of magnesium (88 mg) and potassium (898 mg; two medium sized banana’s worth).


These nutrient-dense green soybeans serve up 8 g of fibre per one cup. You’ll also find 18 g of protein, a full day’s worth of folate, 676 mg of potassium and a decent amount (87 mg) of brain-friendly choline.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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