Fibre plays a vital role in your large intestine where it feeds the trillions of bacteria and acts like a fertiliser for the microbes, fueling their growth, diversity and activity. Pretty amazing, right? It can also help increase stool bulk and frequency (how much and often you poo), which reduces the risk of constipation and helps your body remove toxins and waste products.
But despite all these benefits, 90% of us in the UK aren’t getting the recommended 30g a day. We all know that we should be eating more of it – but how do you do this in practise, and where do you start?
Instead of seeking a massive overhaul of your diet – which can be overwhelming – it’s often easier to make small habitual changes to the foods you already eat. This way, you can make a lasting impact on your health, with minimal effort. So, to help, we’ve highlighted 12 simple changes you can make to your daily meals, snacks and drinks to boost your fibre intake.
Swap your cereal
Many of us start our days with a bowl of cereal, which can be a great opportunity to boost our fibre levels before we’ve even got dressed! But just how much fibre is actually in there? The amount of fibre in our cereal can vary depending on the type you choose, so look for wholegrain-based cereals such as bran flakes, shredded whole wheat cereal and no-added sugar mueslis.
However, as with any processed packaged foods, watch out for added sugar and salt – it’s always best to compare nutritionals across products in the supermarket to be sure.
Swap cereal for oats
Oats are another fantastic high-fibre breakfast option. What’s more, they’re cheap, easily adaptable to your tastes, and can be enjoyed all year round, whatever the weather: try them hot and hearty in winter, or prep overnight oats for a chilled start to warm summer mornings.
One of our favourite overnight oat recipes is based on kombucha of course! Combine ½ a cup of oats with ¼ cup kombucha, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, ½ a grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon. Leave covered overnight and top with fresh fruit in the morning. We’d love to see your own variations of overnight oats!
Where you can, choose unadulterated oats rather than flavoured instant porridge – unsurprisingly, golden syrup flavoured takeaway pots can be hiding plenty of sugars!
Swap your rice and pasta
Try swapping plain white pasta for wholemeal pasta for over two times the fibre and twice the levels of iron, thiamin and B vitamins and 20% fewer calories. Also look out for pasta made from chickpeas and lentils which can contain over six times the fibre compared to wheat pasta!
If you’re more of a rice fan, try choosing brown or wholegrain over white. Each serving of brown rice contains an impressive six times more fibre than the same amount of white according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as being higher in vitamins and minerals.
Keep the peel
If you’ve ever wanted to get out of peeling potatoes for the Sunday roast, here’s your excuse!
Leaving the peel on vegetables can greatly increase the amount of fibre you consume – and save you a lot of time in the process. What’s more, it reduces the amount of unnecessary food waste that we produce (which can have significant environmental impacts).
Potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, parsnips are all amazing with the peels left on, and can create a fantastic caramelised texture when roasted. Just make sure you clean the vegetables thoroughly beforehand.
And it’s not just vegetables either: leaving the skin of an apple on can double the amount of fibre you get from the fruit.
You can even eat the skins of kiwi fruit, and the greens on the top of strawberries! If you find the texture of eating the whole fruit off-putting, try blending them in a smoothie (though eating them unprocessed is always the preferred option – see point 5!).
Swap your morning juice for a gut shot
When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you remove all of the ‘bits’, taking away the fibre and a lot of the nutrients.
When you make a smoothie at home, it usually contains the whole fruit so will retain more of the fibre compared to shop-bought smoothies – but it’s easy to drink large quantities in a short space of time. This means you could be drinking lots of extra sugars which can damage tooth enamel.
Instead, try a low-sugar, high-fibre gut health shot. Each of our gut health shots contain 4.5 grams prebiotic fibre from chicory inulin, the fibre equivalent of two slices of wholemeal bread, but for less than 25 calories per shot. Plus, they contain a whole host of helpful vitamins and minerals to support your gut, brain and immune system.
Add another vegetable to your meal
Normally have a portion of vegetables as a side to your main meal? That’s great!
Next time you cook, try adding just one more vegetable to your meal. Not only can it effectively double your fibre intake, it will also increase the plant diversity in your diet, which is great for your gut health!
If you’re not keen on vegetables, or have fussy kids, try blending up an extra vegetable or two and cooking it into sauces, bolognese and soups for a sneaky addition.
Swap croutons for seeds
Like a bit of crunch on your soups and salads? Try swapping croutons for some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds to add a hit of texture and fibre to your meals. They also work really well on top of cereal, toast, yogurts, and even pasta dishes.
Swap your loaf of bread
Toast, sandwiches, soup sides – bread is an evergreen staple, and the average UK citizen buys an average of 60 loaves a year, meaning a change here can have a big impact on our daily eating habits.
For a simple swap, change your white loaves (even sourdough!) with those made with wholegrains, seeds or rye, which can have up to four times the amount of fibre per serving.
That being said, remember, white bread isn’t bad for you by any means and can be a good source of calcium, iron and other vitamins and minerals – no matter what the latest diet trend says!
Make a meat swap
Mix up your traditional meaty recipes by swapping all or some of your regular mince for beans, lentils & soya bean mince. As well as adding some more plant diversity to your diet, which is great for your gut, and reducing the environmental impact of your meal, it will guarantee an extra hit of fibre.
A tin of lentils added to a bolognese would boost your recipe’s fibre credentials by approximately 9g. Pretty impressive!
Swap crisps for popcorn
Popcorn is a perfect high-fibre alternative to crisps – that’s because popcorn is made from the whole corn kernel, meaning it’s a wholegrain product, but still satisfies the need for a savoury crunch. It can also be a lot lower in saturated fat and calories than most crisps, as it can be popped with very little oil in comparison, making it a generally healthier option.
However, some popcorn products can be laden with added sugars and lots of salt, so always check the ingredients and nutritional information when comparing similar products.
If you’re not keen on popcorn, most supermarkets also sell crispy chickpeas and beans, which also tend to be high in fibre. But again, watch out for added salt. Try making it at home to ensure you know how much salt and sugar goes in.
Swap your cereal bar for fruit & nutsIt’s 3pm and you fancy a little snack, but you want something healthy. What do you reach for? Often a cereal bar is the go-to snack, but many pre-made bars (even those made from natural ingredients) are high in sugar, and are not always that high in fibre and protein, meaning they won’t keep us full for long.
Instead, try a small handful of nuts and some fruit: in their natural form (i.e. not juiced, roasted, blended or sweetened) they can provide a helpful fibre lift. For example, 30g unsalted and unroasted almonds, the equivalent of approximately 20 nuts, contains 4g of fibre and 6g protein.
Add toppingsIf you’re not keen on eating nuts by themselves, try adding them as a topping to natural yogurts, cereals or porridge throughout the day for a hit of flavour and crunch.
Philippa is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with over 15 years of nutrition and food science expertise, having developed NPD for Sainsbury’s and Innocent among others. Philippa is also founder and managing director of a bespoke consultancy and advisory service, helping food businesses achieve optimum wellbeing. Find out more