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.
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.