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Foods and fibre

Watch Janeane talk about the importance of food as a source for dietary fibre.
Dietary fibre occurs naturally in plants and all the foods that are derived from plants. And as we know, foods such as whole grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables are most of the plant foods that are in our diet. Why is dietary fibre good for us? Just to recap– it’s really good for our bowel health, so both in terms of creating stools or helping us develop bowel motions. It’s also helpful in terms of modifying the texture of our bowel motions. So fibre has a really big role to play in terms of fecal bulk, but also in terms of the consistency and texture of stools. And that can have a big impact on people’s health and well-being. So where is it found?
Dietary fibre is found in, as you can see here, an array of the foods that are within our diet, so breads and cereals, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
It’s present in lots of different foods in our diet. How much do we need to eat? We need to be eating– certainly in Australia the recommendation is around 30 grams a day. How much are we eating? Most recent surveys indicate that adults are only consuming about 20 grams a day, so we’re falling about sort of 1/3 short of what we need to be consuming. And then certainly for children they don’t need to be having certainly quite that amount of fibre, but certainly they need to have good amounts of fibre as well. So where abouts do we get fibre? So as you can see here we’ve got an array of different foods here.
So the vegetable group– and generally if we think back to that 30 gram recommendation– for vegetables per half a cup of vegetable there’s about two to three grams of fibre. So if we’re eating our recommended five serves a day that’s somewhere around sort of 10 to 15 grams of fibre, so you’re about halfway there just if you eat your vegetables. With fruit– about two serves of fruit a day you’ll get around, again, another five to eight grams of fibre. If we then look at the legume group, so chickpeas, there’s some black-eyed beans here, some lentils, and of course some of the Asian countries have a really high or regular intake of legumes.
They’re a really rich source of fibre at about five grams of fibre per half a cup. Then things such as seeds and nuts are another really good source of fibre. Per serve, which is around sort of a small handful, there’s around three to four grams of fibre. So again, you can see that through a diverse intake you can notch up your fibre intake through the day. What I’d like to share with you is a sample of what a daily intake of fibre might look like, so over here we’ve got some examples of say some breakfast options. So something like a wheat-based cereal and some fruit or whether it’s an oat-based cereal with some nuts, some seeds, or coconut.
You could potentially put some fruit on that. A couple of slices of whole grain bread and some crunchy peanut butter– that would give you somewhere between around five to nine grams of fibre a day. So again, already you’ve started the day off well. A couple of serves of fruit a day– again, another five to six grams. And then lunch– something like this lunch, which is vegetable soup, carrot and pumpkin soup, and a slice of bread there’s nearly 10 grams of fibre in that lunch. And similarly here, there’s actually about 12 to 13 grams of fibre, and that’s just half a cup of baked beans and a jacket potato.
Or similarly, something like a salad wrap or a salad sandwich, and of course culturally this is going to really vary whether it’s a dal-based lunch or whether it’s another grain, so I think keeping that in mind that as long the foods are fairly predominately plant-based then you’re going to have a really good chance of getting a fibre intake where it needs to be. Snacking on some nuts, again, about four grams of fibre in that serve of nuts, and then something like a whole meal pasta in a vegetable sauce– a tomato-based sauce– or three serves of vegetables with maybe some kind of protein with it, again, is your way of getting 30 grams in each day.
So the benefits are many in terms of fibre intake, so from lowering cholesterol, from helping with slowing down blood glucose absorption, from helping with appetite and feeling satisfied, helping softening stools, and helping people if they’re quite constipated or have very poor stool volume fibre can be beneficial. So we can really, as dieticians– certainly in my experience– modify the different types of fibre in someone’s diet. And just to recap so the different types of fibre– so the soluble fibres are really present in oats and oat bran, in legumes, in things like apple and citrus. And soluble fibre will dissolve in water. It forms like a thick gel, and the soluble fibre is really good at helping soften stools.
And then insoluble fibre is not soluble or doesn’t dissolve in water or as its digested, and the insoluble fibre really can help give fecal bulk. It can help us feel satisfied of full when we’re eating. And a really good source is something like wheat bran or wheat germ. Even something like a tablespoon of that– weather its sprinkled over a salad or through a dal or on a breakfast cereal can add about 4 grams of fibre really quickly, so a simple strategy like that can be really beneficial.
The amount of fibre that we require on a daily basis can vary different times in our life, and at times when someone might have, say, an acute incident of diverticulitis or some kind of tummy trouble they might need to be on a low-fibre diet, but predominately across our lifespan we should be having a diet that’s very much based around plants and plant-based foods, so therefore a diet that’s high in fibre. And for most adults certainly they’re only consuming about 2/3 of what they need, if that. If they’re excluding grains then they really need to be paying attention to the fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and legumes.
Boosting your fibre intake is based around perhaps looking at what you’re currently doing and then thinking about areas and ways you can maybe swap or increase in variety. If your meeting your two fruits and your five vegetables per day you’re getting around 20 grams of fibre already, so you’re about 2/3 of the why there. But it might be thinking about how often do you have legumes? Because about half a cup of baked beans or chickpeas is around 5 grams of fibre– a small handful of nuts.
Thinking about what you have for breakfast– is there a way that you can increase the fibre intake, so that might be a good way to start think about your current intake of fibre, and certainly there are lots of resources online you can use to estimate your fibre and look at some ways to try and boost up to that total of 30 grams. You might already be there or you might be way off. In conclusion, dietary fibre plays a major role in boosting our health and helping manage our gut health in particular. It can have a role to play in supporting diabetes and heart disease management, and overall it’s just very good for general health.
Increasing the amount of fibre is a good goal for most people to be aiming for, and up to about 30 grams a day in Australia is what the recommendation is. It might be different in different countries. One of the key ways to do this is really having a diet that is predominately based around plant-based foods. And I guess, plant-based foods in particular, looking at grains and different cereals and foods made from them, using legumes and everything that’s within that family– chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed beans, baked beans, cannellini beans– things like nuts and seeds, and also of course fruits and vegetables.
So having a diverse intake– and we’ve got quite a few different foods here today to just represent sort of a very small range of what’s available, of course– but having a diverse intake of foods through the day will really support you to optimize your fibre intake. For those people that are Celiac or choosing to follow a diet that’s low in grain then they will need to pay extra attention to look at grains that are gluten free or to use foods outside of the grain group that are high in fibre.

Watch Janeane talk about the importance of food as a source for dietary fibre.

In Australia it is recommended that you eat 25g to 30g of fibre each day to maintain general good health.

The following table lists food pairs and their associated dietary fibre levels. The levels for some foods have been omitted. Can you guess which food in each food pair has the highest level of dietary fibre?

Food 1 Fibre content per 100 g Food 2 Fibre content per 100 g
Boiled potato 1.5 Boiled sweet potato  
Green grapes 2.3 Dry figs  
Corn kernels   Cucumber 1.4
Fried eggs 0.0 Baked beans  
Lettuce   Carrots 4.0

Talking point

Within the Comments, consider sharing with other learners your thoughts on which food in each food pair you think has the highest level of dietary fibre, and why.

If you’re interested in finding out the the dietary fibre levels for each food item, go to the Downloads section of this step for a link to a document (featuring additional foods) with the dietary fibre levels for each item listed in the table.

After reviewing the document, consider sharing with other learners your thoughts on the food items with fibre levels that are higher or lower than you previously thought.

Of the foods listed, which ones do you eat and would consider swapping for one with a higher level of dietary fibre?

Don’t forget to contribute to the discussion by reviewing the comments made by other learners, making sure you provide constructive feedback and commentary. Remember you can also ‘Like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Managing comments

Comments on a step can be ‘filtered’ which helps you access them in a way that’s best for you. You can do this by selecting comments by ‘All comments’, ‘Bookmarked’, ‘Your comments’ or ‘Following’ from the drop-down menu in the comments section of the step. You can can also sort by ‘Newest’, ‘Oldest’ or ‘Most liked’.

You can also bookmark comments to remind yourself of certain contributions that you might wish to refer back to at a later stage.

Mentioning other learners

When replying to a comment, you can also mention other learners that are taking part in the comment thread. You can do this by entering the learner’s profile name as part of your reply. For example, @User3320607 That’s an excellent description! @User4499578 What do you think?

Please note, you can only mention others who are in the thread and cannot use the mention functionality in stand alone comments.

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Food as Medicine

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