There are no two ways about it. Dietary fibre is essential for maintaining good health.
The fact is that eating sufficient amounts of fibre can help to reduce the risks for heart disease and diabetes, and can reduce your chances of unwanted weight gain. In the right quantity, fibre can help to slow digestion and help you feel satiated. Along with good fluid intake, fibre is also crucial for supporting gut health, preventing constipation and maintaining healthy and good bowel movement. If you are prone to skin issues, healthy skin has also been linked to the state of your gut health.
Unfortunately, most people are not getting enough fibre in their daily diets. But fear not; armed with the right information, you will have no longer have a problem getting your daily requirement of fibre in your diet.
There are basically two types of fibre that we need to maintain a healthy digestive system: soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre is soft and sticky. It is the fibre that our bodies are able to digest. This kind of fibre is what slows digestion, prevents and eases constipation, and helps us to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and regulates blood glucose levels.
Soluble fibre can be found in oats, lentils, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots and potatoes.
Insoluble fibre, as the name suggests, is not digestible. We often call this ‘roughage’ that passes through our digestive system, making it all the way to the colon without breaking down, and helps to maintain healthy bowels.
You can find insoluble fibre in cereal, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables like cauliflower and green beans.
So now that we have established how good and necessary fibre is for our health, is there such a thing as too much fibre? Yes. When we take in too much fibre, it can lead to our food moving through our intestines too rapidly, in which case we absorb less of the nutrition from the food we consumed. Too much of it can also lead to uncomfortable bloat, indigestion and stomach cramps.
How much should we be consuming? The daily recommended amount for men under 50 is about 38 g; for women, the amount is about 25 g. Those over 50 need less: 30 g for men and 21 g for women.
Here is a list of healthy, high-fibre foods that you can consider including in your diet.
One cup of cooked lentils provides about 15 g of fibre. Cheap and nutritious, this legume is easy to cook and incredibly versatile. To cook lentils on a stove, first rinse lentils in a strainer, removing any tiny rocks. Place the cleaned lentils in a small saucepan. Add water along with any spices you like, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and keep that going for about 20-30 minutes, adding more water as needed. The water should only just cover the lentils.
Once the lentils are tender, they are done. Strain the water and add a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, mixing well. Some olive oil, vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice and some coriander makes a great seasoning for the lentils. There are also many recipes available online that you can experiment with.
One cup of boiled broccoli contains about 5.1 g of fibre. This antioxidant-rich cruciferous is not just great for fibre, it’s packed with nutrition and consuming broccoli has been linked to cancer, prevention, cholesterol regulation, anti-inflammation and more. Best of all, it’s so easy to cook, very affordable and simple addition to your daily diet. They are great steamed, boiled or grilled with olive oil (or butter), garlic, salt and pepper, and a dash of lemon juice. Great in salads, pasta and stir-fries!
The fibre content in one pear is about 5.5 g. But this sweet and fibrous fruit is absolutely delicious and such a welcome addition to your meals. Eat them whole and raw as a snack or slice them into your salads or Mexican wraps. Pears are also particularly complementary when paired with pork. As a dessert, this fruit is absolutely scrumptious when poached and topped with vanilla ice-cream or baked in a pie.
Skip the regular pasta and go for the whole-wheat versions instead. Whole-wheat pasta is another excellent addition, coming in at 6.3 g of fibre for every cooked cup.
The fact is that these days, you can hardly tell the difference between a good quality whole-wheat pasta and the white-flour version. The only difference is you will be enjoying a guilt-free pasta meal. Avocado pesto pasta, anyone?
A cup of cooked pearl barley consists of 6 g of fibre, which is not too shabby at all. These little nuggets make a nutritious and delicious drink simply boiled with some rock sugar (lemon juice optional). It also has a chewy texture akin to oatmeal and brown rice but has more fibre than those. Barley can also be tossed into soup and salads for added fibre that can help to fill you up.
Black beans have a massive amount of fibre, weighing in 15g a cup. This high-protein legume is just a nutritional powerhouse. These beans have been linked to cardiovascular health, strong bones and weight loss, just to name a few positive benefits. Easily up your intake of black beans by tossing them into a salad, making black bean soup and in Mexican black beans to add to your fajitas and burritos.