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Eat well

Easy ways to get more fibre in your diet

Experts say that most Canadians get less than half the recommended daily amount of fibre. The good news is that all it takes is a few small adjustments to ensure you get all the health benefits fibre has to offer.

Since fibre is found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains, chances are you’re eating some fibre. Unfortunately, you’re probably not getting enough. And that’s too bad because fibre packs a powerful health punch, including weight maintenance.

Here’s how fibre can help:

  • Keeps your bowels healthy and aids in preventing constipation by making stools softer and bulkier
  • Lowers your blood LDL-cholesterol levels and triglycerides
  • Keeps your blood sugar levels in check by slowing the absorption of sugar and slowing digestion in general
  • Reduces your risk of digestive problems
  • Helps maintain your weight or can help you drop a few pounds by helping you feel fuller longer. And since high-fibre foods require more chewing and digesting time, you’re more likely to eat slowly – this will give your brain time to register that you’re full

How much is enough?

Depending on your age and gender, you have different fibre needs.

Gender

Age

(years)

Recommended daily amount of fibre

Women

18-50

25 g

51+

21 g

Men

18-50

38 g

51+

21 g

Do note, however, that if you have ongoing digestive problems or have been diagnosed with a condition, you should speak to your doctor before increasing your fibre intake.

Make good fibre choices

There are two types of fibre:

  • Soluble fibre
    • Dissolves in water and is believed to help lower LDL-cholesterol and regulate blood sugar
    • Oat bran, vegetables and some fruits contain soluble fibre
  • Insoluble fibre (also known as roughage or bulk)
    • Doesn’t dissolve in water and can help relieve constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system
    • Found in wheat bran, whole wheat flour, nuts, vegetables, fruits and legumes such as beans and peas

You don’t really need to worry about how much you’re getting of each type. You just want to make sure you’re getting enough. Fortunately, that isn’t hard to do. Here’s how:

  • Make breakfast count by eating a high-fibre cereal, one with more than six grams per serving. You can also add more fibre by topping your cereal bowl off with banana slices, strawberries or raisins
  • Grab a fruit as part of a meal or snack
  • Cut down on the “white” by switching to whole wheat bread, crackers, pasta and brown rice
  • Add nuts, seeds or beans to a green salad
  • Pack more vegetables into an omelette or casserole, top your pizza with broccoli or spinach and add corn or peas to your favourite soup recipe

When adding more fibre, do it the right way:

  • Increase your fibre intake slowly to give your digestive system time to adjust – aim to reach your required amount in a few weeks rather than a few days
  • Drink more fluids since fibre works better when it absorbs water – as a matter of fact, increasing your fibre without increasing fluids could lead to constipation

What to look for on packaged foods

You can also increase your fibre by being smart about which packaged foods you buy. That means reading the packaging, nutrition label and list of ingredients.

Here’s what you need to know.

Packaging

Packaging claim

What it means

Very high source of fibre

Contains more than:

  • 6 g of fibre per serving

High source of fibre

  • 4 g per serving

Source of fibre

  • 2 g per serving

Nutrition labels

nutrition_fact

The Nutrition Facts label found on packaged foods will list fibre content under “carbohydrates.” You’ll get both the amount of grams and the percentage of the daily value, or recommended daily amount. Cereals vary greatly in the amount of fibre they provide, so it’s important to check the nutrition facts before you buy.

List of ingredients

Look for fibre from natural sources. Check the list of ingredients for such things as:

  • Bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Rye
  • Whole wheat

Foods with fibre

Part of making smarter fibre choices is knowing what foods contain the most fibre. Fortunately, these foods are found easily at most supermarkets.

Food

Amount

Estimated grams of fibre

Legumes

Soybean kernels

175 mL (¾ cup)

22.5

Black beans

250 mL (1 cup)

15.0

Lentils

175 mL (¾ cup)

6.2

Vegetables

Peas

125 mL (½ cup)

5.6

Brussels sprouts

250 mL (1 cup)

6.4

Potato (with skin)

1 medium

4.4

Corn

250 mL (1 cup)

4.2

Carrot

1 medium

2.0

Fruit

Pear

1 medium

5.1

Blueberries

250 mL (1 cup)

3.5

Apple (with skin)

1 medium

3.3

Orange

1 medium

3.1

Kiwi

1 large

2.7

Banana

1 medium

2.0

Grains

Bran cereals

Serving size as specified on package

4-14

(Check the label!)

Oatmeal

250 mL (1 cup)

4.0

Whole wheat bread

1 slice

2.4

Whole wheat spaghetti

125 mL (½ cup)

2.4

Brown rice

125 mL (½ cup)

2.0

Rye bread

1 slice

1.9

Nuts and seeds

Almonds

60 mL (¼ cup)

4.1

Sunflower seeds

60 mL (¼ cup)

3.8

Peanuts

28 nuts

2.3

Flax seeds

15 mL (1 tbsp)

2.0

Looking for recipes? Check out our recipes for delicious and nutritious meals and snacks.

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