Most of us assume that if we eat five fruits and veggies per day, we're okay – at least in terms of fibre intake. Sadly, this isn't so.
Speaking at a media conference in Cape Town, registered dietician Celynn Erasmus pointed out that one serving of fresh fruit only provides between 2g and 3g of fibre, while a portion of vegetables adds about 3g of fibre to the diet.
This means that five portions of fruit/vegetables supply between 12,5g and 15g of fibre. But a daily fibre intake of 25g - 30g is recommended by international authorities. So, your fruit and veggies are only getting you halfway there. In fact, research confirms that the average South African eats less than half the recommended intake.
Fibre has many benefits
Fibre plays an important role in the diet. It helps to control appetite (it fills you up, making you eat less), prevents constipation, and recent research shows that it could protect against chronic diseases of lifestyle. According to a US study, eating whole-grain breakfast cereal is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure.
Furthermore, fibre-rich foods are generally a good source of antioxidants, which help to prevent cancer. It also lowers the glycaemic index of foods, resulting in a steady release of glucose in the blood, which is great for sustained energy and diabetes management.
According to Erasmus, a good way of boosting your fibre intake is to eat high-fibre cereal for breakfast and to have a serving of legumes (soya or beans) somewhere during the day. A bowl of high-fibre cereal could add about 13g of fibre to your diet, while a serving of legumes provide 4,5g - 6g. By including these foods, your daily requirement should add up pretty quickly.
Also make a point of checking food labels to see whether a product contains a lot of fibre, or not. About 3g of fibre per serving is considered 'a lot'.
The downside of a high-fibre intake is that it could lead to bloating and flatulence – but don't let this deter you. If bloating or flatulence is a problem, digestive enzymes, which can be obtained from most pharmacies and health shops, could be the answer to your problem.
Also note that it's important to increase your fluid intake along with your fibre intake. Go for healthier beverage alternatives, such as water, tea or coffee (without sugar and cream). It's also a good idea to increase your fibre intake gradually over a few weeks.
The media conference was hosted by Kellogg's South Africa. – (Carine van Rooyen, updated April 2008)
Coffee a rich source of fibre?
Cereal for staying slim