According to the Swedish National Food Administration, adults should be eating 25-35 grams of fibre every day. However, not many people in Sweden actually reach this amount, as the average is around 20 grams of fibre a day. Most of us really need to eat a more fibre-rich diet – in other words, more plant foods. But besides increasing the amount of vegetables in our diet, there are certain tips and tricks we can adopt to maximise the fibre content in the food we eat.
When fruit ripens, the plant fibres are converted into simple sugars. Bananas, for example, when they’re green and unripe they’re rich in fibre, such as pectin, a favourite of ours. When bananas ripen and turn yellow, they contain less fibre but also more sugar and calories instead. One tip for using your bananas before they ripen is to buy them green and then freeze the ones you don’t manage to eat – they’re amazing in smoothies!
A similar principle applies to root vegetables as for bananas, but in this case it’s about the cooking. Root vegetables are naturally rich in fibre, but when we boil them or heat them up, the fibre content decreases and the sugar content increases. The great thing is, however, that the sugars return to being fibres if you let the root vegetables cool down, which occurs through a process called recrystallisation.
To put it simply, you could say that cereals consist of three parts – the husk, the sprout, and the meal. The husk contains the most nutrients and also fibre, unlike the meal which mostly consists of empty calories. So, leave out products that are based on low fibre meal such as pasta and white bread. Instead, choose a cereal that’s as unprocessed as possible, and ideally in its whole form. Examples of healthy cereals are quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, durra, and teff.
People who are used to eating a diet low in fibre may experience some issues when they start to eat higher fibre foods. A quick increase in the amount of fibre in your diet can result in flatulence, diarrhoea, or constipation. These issues are usually temporary and disappear when the body has become used to the increased fibre intake. To make it easier, you can slowly increase your fibre intake as well as making sure you drink an extra glass of water, as fibre binds a lot of liquid together.
Amcoff E, Edberg A, Enghardt Barbieri H, Lindroos AK, Nälsén C, Pearson M, et al. Riksmaten – vuxna 2010–11. Livsmedels- och näringsintag bland vuxna i Sverige. Livsmedelsverket, Uppsala, 2012.
Livsmedelsverket. Fibrer. Hur mycket fibrer är lagom? Uppsala 2018.