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Fibre has always been synonymous with ‘being regular’ but it is also protective against bowel disorders and heart disease. Foods rich in fibre also contain powerful protective agents, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals. High fibre diets can also help in weight control and the management of diseases such as diabetes.
What does fibre do?
Fibre is only found in plant products, but in two forms – soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre acts like a sponge, absorbing fluid and making the bowel contents softer and able to move more easily. It also helps lower blood cholesterol and improve blood glucose control. Insoluble fibre acts as a ‘bulking agent’ which, with soluble fibre, helps to keep us regular. This effect is useful in treatment of conditions such as constipation, diverticular disease and hemorrhoids.
Which foods contain fibre?
Foods rich in soluble and insoluble fibre are listed below.
- Legumes - dried peas, beans, lentils
- Vegetables - especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potato, kumara
- Fruit – especially apples, pears, citrus, stone and berry fruit
- Breads – mixed grain, wholemeal
- Wholegrain cereals
- Wholewheat pasta
- Rice, especially brown rice
- Corn, cornmeal, polenta
- Fruit & Vegetables
How much fibre do we need?
Most New Zealander’s don’t eat enough fibre. Many of us eat less than half of the recommended amount of 25g for women and 30g for men each day. Tips for increasing your fibre intake are listed below. Adding high-fibre foods to your diet should be done gradually, to minimise possible side effects such as wind and bloating. High-fibre diets are not recommended for young (preschool) children. High fibre foods are too filling, preventing young children eating enough to meet their vitamin and mineral needs.
NZNF White Paper - Dietary Fibre
This paper reviewed the current evidence of health benefits associated with dietary fibre. Starch, simple sugars and non-polysaccharides are all components of dietary fibre and are responsible for bulking faecal matter, increasing viscosity, transit time and Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) production. It is reasonable to conclude that the beneficial effects of dietary fibre include a reduction in the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD). It is also probable that adequate dietary fibre, particularly from grains, reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. These associations for chronic diseases have been found to have an inverse relationship with dietary fibre intake, with higher amounts being more protective.
Fibre content of a range of foods
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
½ cup baked beans
½ cup stewed apricots
½ cup muesli
1 bran muffin
1 cup brown rice
1 slice wholemeal bread
Dried apricots (10 halves)
1 slice wholegrain bread
2 slices white high-fibre
1 cup porridge
1 apple or banana
2 slices white bread
Tips for eating more fibre
- Aim for at least 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Leave the skin on, as it contains much of the fibre. Fruit and vegetable juices contain little or no fibre.
- Choose wholegrain varieties of bread, cereals, rice and pasta. When baking, try substituting half of the white flour with wholemeal flour.
- High-fibre breakfast options include porridge or muesli. Increase the fibre further by adding oatbran or wheatgerm, nuts, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) and fruit (fresh, canned)
- Try adding chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils to soups, casseroles.
- If you are eating more fibre-rich foods, drink more water than usual as fibre absorbs water in the body.