Layout Options

Nutrition diet Fibre Deficiency THE REAL NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY OF THE MODERN ERA

Despite its popular association with keeping us ‘regular’, fibre is no joke. In fact, in my opinion, fibre is something we all need to start paying some serious attention to and talking about way more than we currently are because quite alarmingly, fibre consumption is currently at an all-time low, with less than five per cent of us meeting the recommended daily intake. That’s right, you read that last sentence correctly, literally less than 5 per cent, which means a staggering 95 per cent of our population is fibre deficient!

While we consistently hear about how we can get more protein into our diets, no one seems to be talking about how we can get more fibre into our diets. This may have something to do with the fact that fibre is generally derived from plant based products which the food industry struggle to market and sell at high margins, thus favouring processed type foods, plus meat, dairy and egg products which all yield higher profit margins and thus dominate our food supply chain.

Image of a pear dish from Kimberly Parsons, The Yoga Chef

It’s no wonder, when you come to think about it, that protein has become the macronutrient the food industry want us to consume in such large amounts. And we certainly are, in fact, a huge proportion of people eating a westernised diet consume somewhere between 2-4 times the recommended amount of protein each day. These marketing campaigns have certainly been affective on our protein consumption, as most meals now revolve around meat, dairy or eggs. Vegetables, fruits and pulses (all great fibre sources) have become secondary, thus, so has fibre and its now more than ever that the scales need to be re-balanced and fibre must begin to take a front row seat in our diets once again.

If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t really been paying attention when it comes to fibre and don’t really have a clue what I’m going on about, then keep reading because ill explain why fibre is needed in our diet and what it does for our body.

Why should we be eating more fibre?

Fibre is something the body needs but never actually digests—in fact; it remains more or less the same from plate to toilet. It comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two. Soluble fibre turns to gel in the stomach and slows down digestion, otherwise known as transit time of food through the body, which helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, remains unchanged all the way to the colon, I like to think of it as a sponge made of indigestible food fibres that gets to work cleaning up our digestive system, making waste heavier and softer so it can shimmy through the intestines and clean everything out more easily. Regardless of these differences, neither type of fibre is ever absorbed into the body. Okay, with me so far? Two types of fibre and each with very important tasks for our digestive health.

Image of artichokes from Kimberly Parsons, The Yoga Chef

Skipping out on a daily dose of fibre often leads to constipation, which can make going to the bathroom painful and uncomfortable—hence the term ‘backed up.’ Eating too little fibre can make it tough to control blood sugar and appetite because fibre regulates the speed of digestion and contributes to satiety (aka feeling full). There can be too much of a good thing, though. Overdoing it with fibre can move food through the intestines too quickly, which means fewer minerals get absorbed from food. It can also result in uncomfortable gas, bloating, and cramping, especially when fibre intake is dramatically increased within a short period of time such as 24 hours.

So what’s the magic amount? The Institute of Medicine recommends that men under the age of 50 eat approximately 38 grams of fibre each day and women consume approximately 25 grams. Adults over 50 require less fibre (30 grams for dudes and 21 grams for ladies) due to overall decreased food consumption. Read on to learn about a few of my favourite, fibre-rich foods, plus a tasty recipe to help get ‘em on the table.

 

The Best High-Fibre Foods

Note: The amount of fibre in these foods can vary slightly between the raw and cooked versions

Split Peas – Contain 16.3 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
A staple in Indian cooking, split peas form a terrific, protein-rich base for soups, stews, and dhals.

Lentils – Contains 15.6 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
Lentils are kitchen all-stars—they take less time to cook and are more versatile than many other legumes.

Black Beans – Contains 15 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
Loaded with complex carbs and protein, black beans are one of the most useful ingredients we have to use in our high fibre, healthy cooking

Lima Beans – Contains 13.2 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
Lima beans might sound unappetizing, but very useful and pretty darn delicious when puréed into a soup.

Artichokes – Contains 10.3 grams fibre per medium vegetable, cooked.
Packing more fibre per serving than any other vegetable, artichokes are curiously underused in most people’s kitchens (perhaps because they look a bit… prickly). Get creative and try this intriguing vegetable out.

Green Peas – Contains 8.8 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
Who doesn’t love a good pea and mint soup or mushy peas with their fish’n’chips? Garden peas are my ultimate guilty pleasure when in season – which may sound a bit daft – but honestly, is their anything better than the sweetness of a freshly podded garden pea?!

Broccoli – Contains 5.1 grams fibre per cup, boiled.
A staple on our family table, just by adding a cup of steamed broccoli to your evening meal you’ve banked a 5th of your daily fibre requirement. Not that hard to do really, since broccoli is so accessible and delicious.

Brussels Sprouts – Contains 4.1 grams fibre per cup, boiled.
These may not be your most favoured vegetable but there are so many exciting new recipes out their these days using brussel sprouts, just be a little adventurous and try them in new ways.

Raspberries – Contain 8 grams fibre per cup, raw.
Raspberries aren’t a hard sell—they’re basically nature’s candy and totally delicious, so I don’t think I need to help convince you to put these onto your plate.

Blackberries – Contains 7.6 grams fibre per cup, raw.
Added to porridge breakfast or smoothies, a bag of frozen blackberries is a great asset to have in your kitchen.

Avocados – Contains 6.7 grams fibre per half, raw.
Few foods deserve the title of “superfood” more than the avocado, which is jam-packed with vitamins, fibre, and healthy fats. Remember a half an avocado is my daily recommendation.

Pears – Contains 5.5 grams per medium fruit, raw.
Add to your bircher or simply eat as a piece of daily fruit. A quick and convenient way to eat your fibre.

Bran Flakes – Contains 7 grams fibre per cup, raw.
Short on time? Whip up a fibre rich smoothie and take breakfast to go by adding a tablespoon bran flakes to your morning shake.

Whole-Wheat Pasta – Contains 6.3 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
With the right sauce, whole-wheat pasta is indistinguishable from its high G.I., white-flour cousin. Mix in avocado to add a wonderful creaminess to your pasta without using dairy.

Pearled barley – Contains 6 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
It’s not just for making beer—barley is a chewy, nutritious grain that contains more fibre than oatmeal and brown rice. It can be used in soup, salad, or tea, but I love to use it as a substitute in tasty risottos with seasonal vegetables.

Oatmeal – Contains 4 grams fibre per cup, cooked.
Fibre-friendly oats make it ridiculously easy to get your daily fibre needs. Who doesn’t love a bowl of warm porridge in the mornings?!

Sneaky Tips to Add More Fibre to Any Meal

Need a little more inspiration to help you get more of your daily fibre needs then why not try some of these tips:

  • Add ground flaxseeds to oats, smoothies, yoghurt, and baked goods—you can even try breading chicken or fish with it. A two-tablespoon serving contains 3.8 grams of fibre and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boot.
  • Chia seeds have a whopping 5.5 grams of fibre per tablespoon. When they meet with water, they form a gloopy gel that is great for thickening smoothies, making healthy puddings, or replacing eggs in cakes and cookies.
  • While spinach and carrots aren’t as high in fibre as the veggies mentioned above, they can easily be sliced or grated and snuck into many dishes without much hassle: Try adding some to banana bread, shakes, eggs, or even a homemade pizza base.
  • Food processors are fibre’s best friend. Purée some cooked vegetables and add them to sauces and stews, or swap out rice for cauliflower that’s been processed in the food processor until you get cauli-rice.


Related Articles

7 TIPS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE CHRISTMAS HEALTHILY

Christmas is upon us! As well as being a joyous time of eating, drinking and being merry, for many the festive season can also be...

Creating Mindful Eating Habits

Keeping up with a modern, fast-paced lifestyle can leave little time for tuning into your needs. You’re constantly moving from one thing to the next,...

Can I Drink Alcohol With My Meals?

When you drink alcohol, your body essentially puts all other foods you’ve consumed on the back-burner, and devotes itself to metabolising the alcohol consumed first....