Dietary Fibre for Everyday Health
Dietary fibre includes parts of plant foods that your body cannot absorb.¹ Fibre is resistant to digestion in the small intestine and requires bacterial fermentation in the large intestine. There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and assist in moderating blood sugar levels.¹ Good food sources include oats, peas, beans, apples, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fibre helps to promote the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk.¹ Consuming more insoluble fibre may be beneficial to individuals prone to constipation. Good food sources include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables.
Ingestion of adequate amounts of dietary fibre is important as it may have a protective role against certain gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.¹ In addition, foods higher in fibre provide more nutrition to the intestinal microflora. It has been reported that a lack of nutrients in the intestinal lumen following starvation leads to significant intestinal atrophy. However, this can be reversed by the addition of fibre to the diet.²
For athletes and active individuals, increasing intakes of dietary fibre may help with weight loss or weight maintenance as well as improve overall health.³ Lower energy density diets high in fibre containing foods like whole fruits, vegetables
, grains and legumes can help individuals decrease the calorie content of their meal while still helping them to feel satiated after eating. ³
How much dietary fibre do you need?
|Age Group||Recommended amount per day|
Recommendations as per Health Canada⁴
How can I get more fibre in my diet?
Below are strategies to help increase dietary fibre.
- Choose bread and cereal products with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving.
- Choose wholegrain products more often than processed grain products (For example: use whole wheat pasta or brown rice instead of white pasta or white rice for dinner)
- When baking at home, substitute at least ½ of the white flour with whole grain flour.
- Add 1-2 Tbsp. of bran or flax seed to baked goods, entrees, yogurt, hot/cold cereal, etc.
Vegetables and Fruit:
- Choose whole vegetables and fruits instead of juice.
- Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner meal.
- Prepare or purchase cut up vegetables for a snack at home, work or school.
- Add fresh or frozen fruit such as berries to yogurt or hot/cold cereal.
- Eat the peels of vegetables and fruits when possible.
- Add lentils, beans or soybeans to soups, casseroles and salads.
- Choose legume based spreads like hummus to eat with vegetables or on whole grain flat bread or crackers.
- Roast chickpeas or steam edamame for easy snacks or salad toppings
Nuts and Seeds
- Add roasted nuts, seeds or ground flaxseeds to cereal, cold/hot cereals or baked goods.
- Pack small portions of almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds as snacks or add to homemade trail mix.
- Sprinkle toasted nuts to pasta dishes, rice bowls or stir-fries.
* Remember to increase dietary fibre slowly to avoid gas, bloating or diarrhea, and to increase fluid intake as you increase your fibre intake for optimal gastrointestinal health. Please see week 4 for more information about fluids: https://nutritionontrack.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/week-4/
Vegan Date Squares
Makes 16 squares
1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup (plus more as needed) boiling water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flax seed
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease an 8×8″ square baking pan.
- In a food processor, combine the oats and flax, and process until the oats are slightly ground
- Add in olive oil, brown sugar and salt. Process until everything is combined.
- Remove mixture from the food processor into bowl, then take about ⅔ of the mixture press it down firmly into the baking pan to form the bottom crust.
- Clean out the food processor and add the Medjool dates and boiling water. Process until it is a soft, sticky paste. Add more or less water to achieve the desired consistency – spreadable but not too runny.
- When it is a good consistency, carefully spread it on top of the oat and flax crust.
- Take the remaining ⅓ of the crust mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the date layer, pressing it down lightly.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove and let cool. Cut into 16 squares.
Recipe adapted from: http://chelseashealthykitchen.com/2014/10/08/healthy-oat-and-flax-date-squares/
- Otles S, Ozgoz S. Health effects of dietary fibre. Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2014;13(2):191-202.
- McCullough JS, Ratcliffe B, Mandir N, Carr KE, Goodlad RA. Dietary fibre and intestinal microflora: effects on intestinal morphometry and crypt branching. Gut. 1998;42(1):799-806.
- Manore M. Weight Management for Athletes and Active Individuals: A Brief Review. Sports Med. 2015;45(1):83-92.
- Dietary Reference Intakes. Health Canada Website. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_macronutr_tbl-eng.php. Updated January 23, 2006. Accessed March 1, 2016.