Topic Overview

Why is fibre important?

Eating a high-fibre diet is thought to help prevent constipation and its related problems. It may lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and help control blood sugar levels. And it may help with reaching and staying at a healthy weight.

What is the recommended daily amount of fibre?

Men age 19 and older should aim for 38 grams a day, and women age 19 and older should aim for 25 grams a day.

How can you get more fibre?

Fibre is in many foods, including beans, peas, other vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. You can figure out how much fibre is in a food by looking at the Nutrition Facts label. If a food has fibre, it will be listed under the total carbohydrate on the label. The food label assumes the daily value (DV) of fibre is 25 grams a day (g/day) for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Grams of fibre (estimates) in certain foodsfootnote 1
Food Serving size Dietary fibre (grams)
Black beans, cooked 3/4 cup (175 mL) 5.4
Pinto beans, cooked 3/4 cup (175 mL) 12.2
Chickpeas, cooked 3/4 cup (175 mL) 7.8
100% bran cereal (non-flake) 1/3 cup (30 g) 11.8
Apple with skin 1 medium 2.6
Pear with skin 1 medium 5
Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) ½ cup (125 mL) 2.0-4.2
Brown rice, cooked ½ cup (125 mL) 1.5
Bulgur, cooked ½ cup (125 mL) 2.7
Whole wheat spaghetti, cooked 1 cup (250 mL) 4.8
Almonds 1/4 cup (60 mL) 4.2

Be sure to increase the amount of fibre in your diet slowly so that your stomach can adjust to the change. Adding too much fibre too quickly may cause stomach upset and gas.

Some doctors recommend adding bran to your diet to help boost the fibre content. If you do this, start slowly with 1 teaspoon a day. Gradually increase the amount to several teaspoons a day.

Some people who have diverticulitis avoid nuts, seeds, berries, and popcorn (because of the hulls). They believe that the seeds and nuts may get trapped in the diverticula and cause pain. But there is no evidence that seeds, nuts, and berries cause diverticulitis or make it worse.footnote 2

Does fibre help digestion?

If your diet is high enough in fibre, your stools should become softer, larger, and easier to pass.

  • Changing your diet may relieve constipation, but it may not help relieve abdominal (belly) pain.
  • If you don't have any improvement within a week or two, talk to your doctor about your diet.
  • Talk to your doctor if constipation continues or gets worse. Another medical problem or a medicine may be causing constipation.

Drink enough fluids every day to help keep your stool soft. High-fibre diets need enough fluid in the body to work properly.

References

Citations

  1. Health Canada (2008). Nutrient value of some common foods. Ottawa: Health Canada. Also available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/nutrient_value-valeurs_nutritives-eng.php.
  2. Davis BR, Matthews JB (2006). Diverticular disease of the colon. In M Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 855-859. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Dietetic Association (ADA) (2008). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(10): 1716-1731. Available online: http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8355.
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Also available online: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

Current as ofMay 4, 2017