How much fibre should we be eating a day?

Australian women are recommended to eat 25g of fibre and men 30g of fibre per day. 

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre?

Soluble fibre easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon. It helps the slow release of sugar into the blood stream, can lower cholesterol (and therefore positively reduce heart disease risk) and also provides food for healthy gut bacteria.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract. It helps speed up the processing of waste keeping the tract clear of any blockages.

Is it possible to eat too much fibre, and what happens if you do?

The nutrient reference values for Australian’s has not set an upper limit for fibre intake, as research has not conclusively found any deleterious effects of eating high intakes of fibre (approximately 50g).

The main complaints come when people have significantly increased their fibre intake in a short period without letting their bodies adapt. High fibre foods ferment in the gut, producing a high level of healthy bacteria. During the fermentation process gases are released and in the cases of very high fibre loads, this can lead to excess or uncomfortable flatulence & bloating.

A high fibre diet also requires a lot of water to ensure a soft stool. If you start eating foods higher in fibre without enough water then constipation is a common side effect. It is always better to start slowly and gradually increase your intake of high fibre foods.

Should ordinary people look at supplementing with fibre, with things like pysillium husk?

You don’t need to supplement if you’re eating a balance of the core food groups. Aim for 5 serves of vegetables, making sure you have some at lunch & dinner,  2 pieces of fruit, eaten with the skin when possible and 4 -6 serves of whole grains or legumes per day like brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils. Then choose to snack of nuts or add a handful of mixed seeds to yoghurt.

What are some great (and delicious) sources of fibre?

1 cup mixed salad= 7g

½ cup baked vegetables (with skin) = 3.7g

100g kidney beans = 6.5g

1 medium corn cob = 5.9g

½ cup rolled oats = 4.5g

1 medium apple = 3g

1 cup wholemeal pasta = 7.9g

¼ cup (30g) nuts = 2.6g

1 cup popcorn (air popped) = 1.2g

Ways to add fibre to your favourite dishes:

  • Replace mince meat with lentils in spaghetti Bolognese & use wholemeal pasta

  • Add kidney beans to your Mexican chilli con carne or taco mixture

  • Keep the skin on vegetables & fruit like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato & kiwifruit.

  • Swap to rolled oats and add a sprinkling of chia seeds or pepitas