Do you or your child have a sluggish digestion? Our bodies need fibre to work properly, as well as to help us feel fuller for longer.
Dietary fibre is an important component of a healthy balanced diet. There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Most plant foods contain both types but proportions vary.
Insoluble fibre is found in all stringy plants and used to be know as ‘roughage’. Taken with sufficient fluids, a diet rich in insoluble fibre prevents constipation and haemorrhoids and may help to prevent bowel cancer and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Insoluble fibre is also important in helping keep hunger at bay as it helps us to feel full. So, if you have hungry children running to the pantry constantly, make sure their snacks are rich in insoluble fibre. See our list of food ideas a bit further on.
Soluble fibre, found in oat bran, pulses, fruit and veges, helps digestion by slowing the rate at which food leaves your stomach and travels through the gut. This in turn slows the absorbtion of sugar and reduces blood fats. This is a good thing, considering the diet that our children are exposed to these days, as more soluble fibre will help protect their health now and into the future, when high cholesterol levels and heart disease become the roll-on effect.
Another advantage of including a good amount of fibre-rich foods into your diet is that it increases food volume without increasing caloric content. This helps you feel more full and may reduce appetite.
how much does your family need?
The AI is set to:
- 14g/day for children between 1- to 3-years-old
- 18g/day for 4- to 8-year-olds
- 24g/day for boys aged 9- to 13-years-old
- 20g/day for girls aged 9- to 13-years-old
- 28g/day for boys aged 14- to 18-years old
- 22g/day for girls aged 14- to 18-years-old
- 30g/day for adult men
- 25g/day for adult women
- 28g/day for pregnant women
- 30g/day for breastfeeding mothers
When you start to increase your fibre levels, remember to do it slowly. The body can take time to adjust and your tummy might feel a bit gripey and bloated if you have too much too soon.
Also, start to take note of the fibre levels listed on the back of packet. You might be surprised at how little some products contain. A good thing to remember is that any product containing fibre should contain at least 3 grams, and high fibre foods should contain at least 6 grams. Choosing ‘wholegrain’ rice crackers over ‘plain’ is a good place to start. Once you start making the fibre content one of your purchasing criteria, you will have made a very positive change to your family’s overall diet.
fibre it up
To increase your fibre intake, here are a few suggestions:
- Stock your pantry with wholegrain staples such as oats, brown rice, cereals and whole wheat crackers.
- Start the day with a high-fibre cereal.
- Finish a meal off with an orange or have a citrus fruit as a mid-morning snack.
- Replace white bread with wholegrain.
- Cut up vegetable sticks for the kids to nibble on while you are cooking dinner. Make an avocado dip to go with them.
- Add a little flax fibre to your homemade baking, or sprinkle it onto cereals or into smoothies. Just a little adds a healthy punch.
- Make smoothies with fresh berries or kiwifruit. Freeze them for a hot summer’s day.
- Make a fibre rich ice cream by blending frozen berries and frozen banana.
what are fibre-rich foods?
Soluble fibre is found in varying quantities in all plant foods, including:
- Legumes (peas, soybeans and other beans)
- Oats, rye and barley
- Some fruits and fruit juices (including prune juice, citrus fruits, plums, berries, bananas, and the insides of apples and pears)
- Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes
- Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and onions (note, the skins of root vegetables are sources of insoluble fibre)
Sources of insoluble fibre include:
- Whole grain foods
- Wheat and corn bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Potato skins, tomato skins
- Flax seeds
- Vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, courgette and celery
- Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, broccoli
- Some fruits including kiwifruit, mango, tomato, avocado and bananas
- Wheatgerm oil
- Sunflower oil
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Soybean oil
- Fortified cereals
Here is a fibre-rich dish that is full of goodness and tasty too. Mixing a wide range of vegetables, it is sure to provide you with a good portion of your daily adequate intake of dietary fibre, as well as with important vitamins and minerals. The eggs and cheese add some proteins to the mix, which will also help satisfy your hunger. The most time-consuming task is to prepare all the vegetables, but actually making this dish could not be simpler.
Just as delicious served hot as it is cold, slices of this vegetable cake can be taken on a picnic or conveniently packed into your children’s lunchboxes as a great alternative to sandwiches.
- ¼ red cabbage
- 2 onions
- 4 carrots
- 1 green pepper
- 1 red pepper
- 240g mushrooms
- 4 courgettes
- ½ bunch parsley
- 2 cups grated cheese
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- 125g wholewheat flour
- 8 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease a deep 35×27cm (14×11 inch) rectangular ovenproof dish.
- Prepare all the vegetables. Finely chop the red cabbage and parsley. Peel and finely slice the onions. Peel and grate the carrots. Remove the seeds from the peppers and slice. Clean and slice the mushrooms and courgettes. Put all these vegetables together in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
- Mix in half the grated cheese, sunflower oil and wholewheat flour. Beat the eggs lightly and fold into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the prepared dish. Scatter the remaining grated cheese on top, bake for 40 minutes and serve hot.
- It’s recommended to make any dietary changes gradually as some people may experience bloating, gas and abdominal cramping if they increase their intake too quickly.
Christelle Le Ru is a Cookbook author & mum of fivewww.christelle-leru.co