Everyone knows they need to eat a diet rich in dietary fibre for good gastrointestinal health. Most people also know good sources of dietary fibre are fruit and vegetables and wholemeal grains, and that eating enough fibre ‘keeps you regular’.
A diet high in fibre offers many health benefits:
- Lowers your cholesterol,
- Keeps you full for longer
- Reduces your risk of heart disease, constipation, haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, colon cancer, obesity.
- Reduces your risk of high blood sugar and diabetes
- Offers immune support
- Regulates blood sugar
- Helps with liver detoxification.
Most people have no idea of how much fibre they actually need.
Very few people eat anywhere near the amount of fibre they need each day. The recommended daily intake is 20-30g fibre per day. But research has shown that actually consuming 75-100g might be more helpful. However, you are highly unlikely to be eating anywhere near 75g as most people don’t even manage the 30g recommended.
What Fibre Can Do For You
Fibre has a laxative effect, so helps reduce the incidence or severity of constipation.
It binds with cholesterol so the cholesterol cannot be absorbed.
It feeds gut flora (the good ones) to nourish the colon cells.
It stops blood sugar spikes because fibre rich foods are Low GI.
Fibre helps with weight control.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fibre and should make up the greater part of your diet. Avocados, vegetables from the cabbage family including broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, root vegetables and green peas are all good vegetable choices, high in fibre . Fruits with edible seeds, apples, pears (not too ripe) and raspberries are good fruit choices.
The simple way to increase the amount of fibre in your diet is to replace some meat and processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, with nutritious, high fibre alternatives as often as possible. The foods that work the best are pulses/ legumes and quinoa. These foods are high in protein and act as suitable meat substitutes.
Most people are familiar with using dried pulses in their cooking, but often the simple step of using them instead of meat is overlooked. Substituting with pulses and legumes provides you with a nutritious, high-fibre vegetarian meal as all dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are nutrition packed, as well as high in fibre. Legumes have more fibre than any other food, and blackbeans are the highest. In addition, unlike meat, beans are low in fat and cholesterol-free.
Although legumes are a starchy food the starch is not digested easily, therefore avoiding the sugar spike you get from many other carbs. Because they are high-fibre it means they stop you getting hungry – a great addition for weight control.
They are a wonderful alternative to processed carbohydrates and can be used very simply to replace meat in a dish
A few years ago I replaced the beef in burgers made for my family with mashed chickpeas and added a few finely chopped vegetables. The result was delicious and my boys loved them, using them to build a burger with bread, lettuce, tomato etc just as they did before with the meat patties. But with the chickpea patties they got more vegetables as I added as much as the basic legume mix could hold without falling apart, and chick peas are low GI carbs, and full of protein, perfect for growing boys. Kidney beans would also work really well here.
Legumes make wonderful contributions to most stews and casseroles, pies and many salads. In a meat-based dish you can cut the meat by half and substitute with beans. You get dietary fibre, less cholesterol and less fat than with meat.
Here are some great pulses you can use:
- Peas- green or yellow, split, chickpeas, black-eyed,
- Beans – brown, white, black, lima, kidney, mung, butterbeans, baked beans, pinto, navy, soy
- Lentils – peeled, unpeeled, red, brown, yellow, green
Quinoa is a fairly new addition to western diets but now readily available. Did you know that it contains nearly twice as much fibre as any other grain (although it is actually a seed not a grain). It is incredibly nutritious, and 100g of quinoq provides a whopping 7g of fibre – 2.5 times the accepted RDA, and enough to meet the new recommended levels!
Quinoa is so versatile that you can substitute it in a dish for rice, add it to soups, casseroles, or even use it to make a sweet breakfast porridge. You can even sprout it!
It is a gluten-free staple so makes a perfect substitute for gluten-grains such as burghul in dishes like tabbouli.
Quinoa provides all the required amino acids for the human body in excellent proportions, (including lysine). It is high in iron and calcium, a good source of magnesium, manganese and copper and phosphorous. It is a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E and omega3 and omega6.100g of quinoa contains 46% of the daily requirement of folate. And, it provides similar energy to other major cereals.
Quinoa Preparation: Quinoa needs to be prepared properly. If the quinoa hasn’t been washed, wash it in cold water repeatedly until all the foam disappears, before you cook it. Cook quinoa the same way as you cook other staples like buckwheat, rice, etc. Roughly, one cup of dry grains cooks up to three cups and becomes fluffy and chewy with a pleasant taste.
Here are some suggestions to use quinoa in your cooking:
- Quinoa flour can be mixed with other flours to enrich the overall quality of the meal.
- Use quinoa to make porridge, soup, polenta
- Use quinoa in a pilaf, pudding, or simply serve alongside a casserole or stir-fry
- Use it as the base for a salad
If you need a few ideas for using quinoa here are some quinoa recipes
How Much Fibre Is 30g?
Just to give you an idea of how much food you need to eat to get 30g fibre a day check these out. Each shows the amount of fibre in 1 cup of the particular food.
- Apples, raw with skin – 3 gm (10 apples = 30 gm fibre)
- Quinoa, uncooked – 12 gm (2.5 cups of quinoa = 30 gms fibre)
- avocado, fresh, cubed – 10 gm (3 cups of avocado = 30 gm fibre)
- Rolled oats, oatmeal – 8 gm (3.75 cups of oats = 30 gm fibre)
- Wholemeal/wholewheat bread (in 1 slice) – 2 gm (15 slices = 30 gm fibre)
- Kidney beans, canned – 14 gm (2 big cups kidney beans = 30 gm fibre)
- Chickpeas (garbanzos), canned – 11 gm (2.75 cups chickpeas = 30 gm fibre)
- Coconut, raw, shredded – 7 gm (4.25 cups coconut = 30 gm fibre)
- Broccoli, raw, chopped – 2 gm (15 cups of broccoli = 30 gm fibre)
You are most likely to be including a number of foods in your day that contain fibre, so it does not mean you actually have to eat 10 apples or 15 cups of broccoli or 15 slices of wholemeal bread to get your recommended 30 gms of fibre. But these figures do give you some idea of just how easy it is to get insufficient amounts and why you need to be conscious of including fibre rich foods every day.
How about making the change and trying out a few new dishes based on legumes and quinoa to your diet?
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.