If the idea of eating a bowl of Bran Buds in the morning makes you cringe, you are not alone. The average North American diet relies heavily on highly-processed, low-fibre foods and our desire for all things processed means most people only get about half of the daily recommended intake of fibre.
Beyond the obvious effects it has on bowel movements, there are other advantages to eating a high-fibre diet. Evidence suggests that foods high in dietary fibre may protect against certain types of cancer, including mouth, throat, stomach and colorectal cancers. Adequate fibre intake can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. High-fibre foods are relatively low in calories and high in micronutrients, which can help you maintain, or achieve, a healthy body weight – another factor that reduces cancer risk. To get all these health benefits, you should eat between 25-30 grams of fibre per day, or 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed.
When talking specifically about grain products, there are three main components to a whole grain: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. When grains are refined, often to be added to commercial foods, they are stripped of the bran and germ layers. This also removes fibre, oil, B vitamins and 25 per cent of the grain’s protein content. In general, the less processed the food, the higher the fibre content is going to be. Stick with foods that are closer to the source and further from the factory. Some good choices are: whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and millet), whole wheat breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils.
It may be easier than you think to eat 25 grams of fibre each day. If you had 1/2 cup steel cut oats and 1/2 cup berries for breakfast, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread and 1/2 cup raw vegetables for lunch and a small baked potato (with skin), a three-ounce steak and 1/2 cup steamed vegetables for dinner, you would be getting exactly 25 grams of fibre! Easy!
Easy Ways to Boost Your Fibre Intake
- Switch from white bread to whole-wheat bread or sprouted grain.
- Sprinkle wheat germ, wheat bran or flax on your cereal or yogurt.
- Try raw veggies and salads over cooked vegetables more often.
- Leave the skin/peel on your peaches, pears, carrots and potatoes.
- Switch to whole wheat or “smart” pasta instead of white.
- Choose cereals with 5 grams or more of fibre per serving, or mix a high-fibre cereal (9 grams or more) with one of your favourite low-fibre cereals.