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How much fibre do I need?
The recommended daily intake of fibre is 25-35g per day for adults. The average Australian only eats less than 20g of fibre per day.
Desirable fibre intake for children (under 18) is calculated by age + 5g. For example, a six-year old needs 6 + 5g = 11g of fibre per day.
It is possible to have too much fibre. Excess fibre can interfere with the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, and upset nutritional balance. However, you would need to eat excessive amounts of fibre for these problems to occur.
Combinations of foods that would provide you with enough fibre across the day include:
- High-fibre breakfast cereal (5g) + 4 slices wholegrain bread (6g) + 3 servings fresh fruit (9g) + 35g raw almonds (5g)
- 1 cup brown rice (4g) + 3 servings of vegetables (6g) + ½ cup corn, peas or lentils (5g) + 3 medium figs (5g) + 3 servings fresh fruit (9g)
- 1 cup wholemeal pasta (8g) + 3 servings of vegetables (6g) + 1 cup bean soup (6g) + 3 servings fresh fruit (9g)
- 1 cup porridge (2g) + ½ cup wholemeal pasta (4g) + 1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels (5g) + 3 servings of vegetables (6g) + 3 servings fresh fruit (9g) + 2 slices whole-grain bread (3g)
How to increase your fibre intake and avoid constipation
Stop! If you need more fibre, don't peel that potato
When increasing your fibre intake, take it slowly. Add just a few grams more at a time to allow the intestinal tract to adjust. Abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation may result if you increase fibre intake too fast. You should also increase the amount of fluid you drink; drink at least two litres of water daily, as fibre absorbs water.
Other tips for increasing fibre intake:
- Start your day with a bowl of high-fibre breakfast cereal. Add 1-2 Tbsp of unprocessed bran and wheat germ for extra fibre, or try adding nuts, dried fruits and seeds.
- Eat whole-grain breads instead of those made with processed flour.
- Don’t peel fruits and vegetables – much of the fibre content is in the skin!
- Snack on fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Add bran (barley/wheat/rice) or psyllium husks to soups, casseroles, yoghurt, smoothies, dessert and biscuit recipes.
- Exercise regularly to strengthen the abdominal muscles and stimulate the gut.
- Read food labels for fibre content.
- Add beans to soups, stews, and salads.
- Drink plenty of fluids, as fibre absorbs water!
- Eat bean- or lentil-based dishes in place of meat-based ones a couple of times a week.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice.
- Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
- Experiment with international dishes that use whole-grains and legumes as part of the main meal. For example, Dahl curries (lentils) and Tabouli salad (bulgur wheat).
- Avoid regular use of harsh laxatives, as they can overstimulate the intestinal muscles and may make normal bowel activity impossible.