What is dietary fibre?
Fibre is the indigestible portion of food that regulates intestinal function by increasing stool volume, thereby stimulating intestinal contraction and bowel movement. A diet low in fibre may cause constipation and increase the risk of developing diverticulitis, duodenal ulcers, colon cancer and other digestive problems.
Why do you need a fibre-rich diet?
A diet rich in fibre
- Prevents constipation by working as a stool softener and improving intestinal motility
- Helps manage appetite to promote healthy weight maintenance
- Improves glycemin control (blood sugar)
- Helps lower blood cholesterol
- Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer
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How much fibre do you need to eat each day?
The average adult needs about 25-35 grams of fibre every day. If your diet is low in fibre, try to gradually increase your fiber intake by adding 1 high-fibre food to your diet per day until you reach your daily requirements. A gradual transition will help your gastrointestinal tract adjust and reduce bloating.
To support healthy bowel movements, ensure your water intake is adequate, not just your fibre intake. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day (or more if you are exercising or in hot weather) to help fibre do its job and decrease intestinal transit time.
What are some good sources of fibre (soluble and insoluble)?
Legumes (suggested serving size 3/4 cup)
- Excellent: beans (kidney, black, Nacy, Lima, soy, great northern, white and pinto) and peas (black-eyed & pigeon)
- Very good: lentils & chickpeas
Whole Grain Products (suggested serving size 1/2 cup)
- Very good: all bran cereal or flakes (look for all natural varieties without a lot of added sugar), oat bran
- Good: whole grain, rye & pumpernickel bread (avoid refined white bread) whole wheat pastas, bulgur, brown rice, wild rice
Vegetables (try to include at least 1/2 cup of vegetables with every meal or snack)
- Very good: peas & artichoke
- Good: Brussels sprouts, spinach
- Fair: parsnip, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, carrots, potatoes with skin, green beans
Whole fruit (suggested serving size 1 medium fruit or 1/2 cup w/ skin, 2 tbsp. dried fruit)
- Very good: pears, guava, avocado
- Good: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, dried prunes & raisins
- Fair: kiwi, apple, grapefruit, apricot, banana, nectarine
Nuts & seeds (suggested serving size 1/4 cup nuts or 2 tbsp. seeds)
- Very good: flax seeds or chia seeds
- Good: almonds, hazelnuts, soy nuts, pistachios & pine nuts
Legend: Excellent > 8g; Very Good > 5g, Good > 3g, Fair > 2g
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High cholesterol? Help lower your cholesterol levels with soluble fibre!
A minimum of 10g of soluble fibre per day is recommended to help lower "bad" cholesterol. Evidence suggests that soluble fiber is more effective at lowering cholesterol than insoluble fibre (but both types of fiber are very important for your health).
Good sources of solubre fibre include:
- Psyllium (2 tbsp.) = 7 g of fibre
- Black beans and Lima beans (3/4) cup) = 5 g of fibre
- Beans (3/4 cup) = 3 g of fibre
- Oatmeal, cooked (1 cup) = 3 g of fibre
- Bran buds (3 tbsp.) = 3 g of fibre
- Asparagus, broccoli, turnip, carrot or green peas (1 cup) = 3 g of fibre
- Sweet potato, chickpeas or Brussels sprouts (1/2 cup) = 2 g of fibre
- Avocado (1/2 medium) = 2 g of fibre
- Oat bran or oat flakes, cooked (1/2 cup) = 1.5 g of fibre
- 1 apricot, pear, orange, peach = 1.5 g of fibre
- Flax and chia seeds (1 tbsp.) = 1 g of fibre
Tips for getting more fibre in your diet
- Begin the day with a complete balanced breakfast that includes a source of fibre such as vegetables, beans, nuts or seeds, whole fruit with the skin, whole grain unrefined cereal, or whole grain bread with more than 3g of fibre per 30g serving.
- Add fibre-rich legumes like beans, lentils or chickpeas into your salads, soups or sauces.
- Eat 5-10 servings of colourful whole fruit and vegetables every day (aim for a 70:30 vegetable to fruit ratio), aiming for 1-3 servings per meal.
- Choose whole fruits and vegetables with the peel (instead of fruit or vegetable juice)
- Opt for whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta, brown or wild rice instead of white rice, or bulgur or quinoa as your starch at meals.
- Add a tablespoon or two of flax or chia seeds to your breakfast oatmeal or salads.
- Garnish yogurt with nuts, fresh fruit, seeds, wheat bran or wheat germ.
- Add bran, oat flakes or chopped nuts to meatloaf, casseroles and burgers.
- Always choose whole grain bread instead of refined, processed white bread and ensure "stone ground whole grain flour" is the first ingredient.
- When baking, substitute white flour with whole grain flour to double the fibre.