What is Fibre, anyways?
Fibre is the part of plant-based food that isn't digested and absorbed by your intestines (although the good bacteria in your gut can use fibre for energy). There are two types of fibre - insoluble fibre and soluble fibre. Both provide different benefits and can help you feel your best always.
Let's talk about insoluble fibre first. This type of fibre can't be dissolved in water. It helps keep you regular by adding bulk to your stool and helping food pass through your gut more quickly. In other words, if you aren't someone who poops at least once a day, consider adding more water and insoluble fibre to your diet. Examples of insoluble fibre include whole grains, fruits and vegetables (often contain both types of fibre), nuts/seeds, and beans.
Soluble fibre is fibre that can dissolve in water - it can help reduce blood cholesterol and improve blood sugar control in people with and without diabetes. It can also improve insulin sensitivity and help with symtoms of reflux/heartburn, constipation, and hemmorhoids. Examples of soluble fibre include fruits and vegetables, beans, flax/chia seeds, and oats.
It's tough to get the recommended amount of fibre in each day (25 g for women and 38 g for men), but every little bit can make a difference. On the plus side, lots of nutrient dense foods are high in fibre and there's lots of delicious ways to increase your fibre intake - see the blog post for more ideas!
Some ideas to bump up your fibre intake
I like to make sure my snacks give me plenty of fibre to keep me satisfied until my next meal. Fibre can keep you fuller longer which can help prevent the "hangry" moments and help you make balanced choices at mealtimes.
Choose whole grains as often as possible (whole wheat breads/pasta/cereals), or use whole wheat pastry flour to substitute for white in some of your favourite recipes for good results. Alternative flours like coconut/oat, etc are usually higher in fibre than white flour as well. Fibre is listed on nutrient fact tables for processed foods to help you choose higher fibre options. Eat or bake with oatmeal (add it to muffins, pancakes, loaves, granola etc.) to make filling breakfasts and delicious snack options. Choose brown rice or wild rice when you have the extra time to cook it. You can also choose popcorn as a snack over chips more often - air popped popcorn is a whole grain high in fibre.
Milk products typically do not contain any fibre but the way you eat them certainly can! Pair a high fibre cereal with milk, fruit and granola with yogurt, and cheese with whole grain crackers and an apple.
Meat doesn't have fibre either but it can fit in a healthy diet. Alternatives to meat can be very high in both types of fibre - lentils, beans, chickpeas (all legumes) and nuts are great sources. Try adding nuts to oatmeal/baking, having trail mix as a snack, or nut butters on whole grain toast. Roast legumes for a snack or salad topping, cook them in stews/casseroles/add lentils to meat sauce, or have hummus and raw vegetables as a tasty snack.
Vegetables & Fruits
Virtually all fruits and vegetables are a great source of fibre. I like to pack a salad and 1-2 pieces of fruit in my lunch every day (among other things!) because I'm always hungry at work and it helps meet my fibre needs for the day. Switch up your salads regularly by using different nuts/seeds/salad dressings to keep them delicious and interesting. If you find it challenging to wash/cut/prepare fruits and vegetables during the week you are not alone. Some ways to manage this challenge are to wash and cut half of the fruit/veggies you buy as soon as you are home from the grocery store so that the work is done for a few days already, and when you run out of those - do the rest!
It's much easier to incorporate vegetables with a plan so have a few meals in mind that you are going to make before you hit the grocery store.
If you don't like a new ingredient at first (for example, maybe you have never had lentils before) try it a couple different ways before you decide if you like it or not. Maybe you don't like canned lentils in your salad but maybe you love it as part of a spaghetti sauce.
Other helpful fibre notes
Try to eat a plant based diet a couple times a week if you typically eat meat every day. This can be a great way to try out new ingredients and recipes and get extra fibre in as well! Try searching vegetarian recipes online and see what looks good to you. If you aren't someone who eats a lot of fibre, start slow in increasing your intake and drink lots of extra water. It takes time for your gut to adjust so try adding one high fibre food each day for a few days and gradually increase.
Everyone has different amounts of time, energy, and passion to devote to food and cooking. If these examples seem overwhelming and you don't know where to start - book an appointment so I can help you find ways to incorporate more fibre in your diet that will work best for you and your life!
Government of Canada, Nutrients in Food, Fibre
Health Benefits of Dietary FibreAnderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.