Most people don’t eat enough fibre. If you want to increase your intake and hit the recommended daily intake, here are the best high-fibre foods and meals to start with.
Fibre isn’t the sexiest part of your diet (after all, it’s responsible for keeping everything moving in your digestive tract) which might be why so many people struggle to get enough. In the UK, the average fibre intake for adults is just 18g per day, according to the NHS – 60% of the recommended intake of 30g.
This target isn’t set in vain. Research published in The Lancet shows that those who eat between 25-29g of fibre a day have the least risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, among other positive mental and physical health outcomes, and that even higher intakes of dietary fibre could lead to greater benefits.
The best high-fibre foods
In a recent Instagram post, Dr Hazel Wallace, an NHS doctor and nutritionist from the Strong Women Collective, explained that fibre tends to come come from whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
“Carbohydrates tend to be a main source of fibre in our diets,” explains dietician Catherine Rabess who specialises in gut health. “These are dietary fibre, which we know that the gut microbes thrive on and can help balance out and optimise gut health. Fibre is found in plant sources, and is divided into the three main groups: inulin, a starch substance found mainly found in wheat, fructooligosaccharides which are found in fruit and vegetables, and galactooligosaccharides which are in pulses, nuts and seeds.”
How to hit your daily fibre goal
If you are struggling to eat enough fibre, Rabess suggests starting with the basics. “Aim for three sources of high-fibre vegetables a day, such as broccoli and peppers. These can give you around 5g of fibre per serving, which really adds up across the day.”
The most important thing to do is take your fibre journey slowly. “If you go from 10g to 30g or 40g of fibre suddenly, it will be a huge jump for your body. It can cause an upset stomach, whether that’s constipation or loose stools, as well as cramps and bloating,” says Rabess.
“It’s important to try and find a bit of a balance and not eat an extreme level of fibre, but make sure you’re eating the right amount for you and your digestive system.”
It’s also important to think of fibrous foods as an addition to your diet, not a replacement for your favourite things. You might find that you love the wholemeal versions of foods that pack in more fibre but, if you don’t, you don’t need to give up the other versions of rice, pasta or breads. Instead, add an extra vegetable to the dish or go for half and half.
“I think sometimes people assume that by having a diet high in fibre or nutrients it means means they have to pull away from their cultural diet or favourite foods. It doesn’t have to be that way at all,” says Rabess.
If you’re still not sure where to start, here are some high-fibre suggestions to have in your day.
High-fibre breakfast ideas
When it comes to breakfast, oats seem to take the crown for their fibrous nature. Dr Wallace recommends having half a cup of oats with banana, berries and peanut butter for a breakfast that boasts around 7g of fibre.
“I also like to add flaxseed to my porridge to up the fibre intake,” says Rabess. “Roughly one tablespoon of nuts or seeds can give you up to four grams of fibre.”
Other fiborous starts to your day can include wholegrain cereals, brown and seeded bread with peanut butter and fruit, or experiment by adding veggies alongside your scrambled eggs.
High-fibre lunch ideas
Baked beans are a common suggestion for those looking to increase their fibre intake, as one serving contains around 10g. Remember that if you pair that with some wholegrain toast, you’ll be in creasing the fibre content further, which is a great way to get around half of your intake in one meal for those who may have opted for a lower fibre breakfast or snack.
“Another great lunch option is a serving of wholemeal pasta, which contains around 5g of fibre, paired with 100g of broccoli. This is really diverse as there are so many ways to add sauces, flavours and protein options into the dish,” says Rabess.
Dr Wallace recommends a serving of rye bread with avocado and any other extra toppings you fancy for a serving of around 12g of fibre.
High-fibre dinner ideas
For when you’ve got more time to cook, there are plenty of high-fibre dinners that taste delicious and fit around your lifestyle. To start simply, Dr Wallace recommends a serving of wholegrain rice, green veg and a source of protein – flavoured however you like –which will give you around 8g of fibre.
“A lot of south Asian dishes are based on flavoursome beans, legumes and vegetables and are really fibrous, making for a great high-fibre dinner option,” says Rabess. Chana dal can contain around 12g of fibre from the pulses alone, and if you need an extra fibre dose you can opt for brown rice. “We use a lot of white rice in the Caribbean diet as it’s the preferred flavour. But because it is often served with peas or beans the meals are often a fantastic source of fibre,” Rabess adds.
She also recommends ensuring that you have a big diversity of other plant sources, such as garlic, onion, herbs and spices. “As well as being a source of fibre, these are all really high sources of prebiotics which feed your gut bacteria and optimise your gut health.”
Want more simple and nutritious recipes? Make sure you check out the rest of our meal ideas in the SWTC library.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).