With the average person lacking in fibre we all need to challenge ourselves to increase our daily intake.
The RDA for fibre is 30g for an adult, but studies show that most people are only getting around 18g per day. Maybe that’s because fibre comes largely from the foods that many people are reluctant to eat (sadly!)
But it’s such a fundamental part of ensuring the gut is working properly that it should be the first consideration when trying to improve your digestive system. A lack of fibre can be the cause of constipation which in turn will lead to a range of other symptoms.
If we’re not able to pass a stool not only will you feel uncomfortable and bloated, but your body will be unable to eliminate the toxins and used hormones from around the body. These are transported to the gut and make up part of the stool, but if the stool sits in the gut for too long those toxins and hormones (including cholesterol) can be reabsorbed leading to poor general health – and, of course, less than perfect cholesterol levels.
What to change
There are some easy switches you can make to help this but ensuring that you have a good intake of fruit and vegetables – 5-7 servings a day (yes that’s right, I said 7!) – is a good start.
Switching from refined grains (wheat, rice etc) to wholegrain which still has its natural fibre is an easy way to double your fibre at breakfast quickly going from 1.4g for 2 slices of toast to 3.4g for 2 slices.
Better still, switch to an oat-based breakfast (porridge oats) and you’ll get 4.3g of fibre from a 30g serving, plus this is an easy breakfast to boost with 2 tablespoons of milled flaxseed adding 4g of fibre.
Snack on natural foods (veg crudite, fruit, nuts, seeds, figs) rather than biscuits and sugar which have no fibre at all.
And consider changing some of your meals from meat to legumes (think Mixed bean chilli or Mixed bean salads to replace beef chilli or chicken salad). Again meat has no fibre, while beans will give around 4g fibre for a 40g serving.
Lentils also pack in the fibre and are versatile – use them instead of grains, or add to a stew or Bolognese.
How to make changes
Going from 0g to 30g quickly could have some unwanted side effects so make the changes gradually to avoid getting any pain, gas or bloating.
Start off by boosting one meal at a time for a few days and then add the next change in.
Always drink plenty of water too. Fibre without water can make your symptoms worse, but ensuring that you have around 1.5 ltrs of water per day will help to minimise this.