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We're hearing recently that we should eat more grains, whole-grain bread etc, to increase our fibre intake (for males, we should be getting 25 g fibre/day; some say 30 g/day). However grains are also energy-rich, so is there a danger in getting too fat if we try to increase our fibre intake from these sources. Therefore, busy bee that I am (or a retiree with time on my hands) I've been searching out the energy vs the fibre content of foods, with particular emphasis on those that are promoted as high fibre. A summary table is below, and I have attached the original xcel spreadsheet with the link to my main source, and the details of each food.

If we assume that someone is getting 50% of their energy from (zero-fibre) animal protein and fat (the maximum recommended), and with a recommended intake for a sedentary male of 9900 kJ/day (2366 kcal), the we need 4850 kJ/day from other sources. The table below shows the energy intake if we eat enough of that food to get 25 g fibre/day. They are arranged in order of fibre/kJ ratio (higher numbers are more fibre for the energy content). Therefore someone eating exclusively foods from potato and below in the list (plus their animal protein and fats) will be eating  too much energy, if they aim to get 25 g fibre/day (I've called this the high-energy group). Note that this is only a first approximation, as many of these plant foods contain protein and fat as well, so the proportion of animal products may be less; also people may choose to have less than their maximum recommended amount of protein and fat/day.

There are a few interesting points to me:

1. Its interesting that at the top of the list are a lot of boring, traditional, vegetables, often rudely called "fart-food".

2. I have concentrated on wholemeal breads (info from the shelves of our local branch of Coles). Of these, only Lawsons Stoneground Wholemeal is well into the high-fibre list, and the other two wholemeal breads only just creep in. The "grains" breads dont.

3. Some food promoted as high fibre in fact falls into the high-energy/low-fibre group - this includes Special K and brown rice. I've included walnuts because they are often promoted as high in fibre, but their energy content/unit of fibre is massive - though I doubt if we'd eat enough of those to make much of a difference. I've included lettuce, to see what it comes out as, but I doubt if we eat enough of that either. I've omitted other foods that are promoted as high fibre (e.g. raspberries) if we're not likely to eat enough to make a difference. Orange juice is pretty much a disaster from the energy/fibre aspect.

4. I didnt include skins with potato because I dont recommend them - they accumulate the nasty chemicals that farmers and distributors spray on them. I was surprised that Coles baked beans in tomato sauce had such a high fibre/energy ratio. Obviously they've avoided adding too much gunk into the sauce. Also, dont take too much notice of small differences in numbers - there is a lot of variability in the original data from different sources.

Below: high fibre group in green, high energy group in red. The attached spreadsheet also includes a copy of the table sorted by type (vegetables/grains/fruit etc).
 

Food

 

kJ/25g fibre

     

Lettuce leaf

848

Cabbage (cooked)

1263

Baked beans in tomato sauce (Coles)

1341

Broccoli

 

1365

Navy beans (cooked)

1395

Brussels sprouts (cooked)

1452

Kale (cooked)

1463

Peas

 

1486

Carrot

 

1536

Lentils - whole green

1550

Tomatoes (red raw)

1563

Pumpkin (boiled)

1902

Kidney beans

2074

Apples

 

2271

Oranges

 

2330

Avocado

 

2500

Peaches

 

2717

Tomatoes (red, canned, stewed)

2725

Bread Stoneground Wholemeal (Lawsons)

2801

Pasta (wholemeal)

2905

Quick oats

3130

Cherries

 

3143

Banana

 

3615

Pinapple (fresh)

3732

Bread Farmhouse Wholemeal (Abbotts)

3739

Lentils - split red

3925

Bread  Wholemeal (Helgas)

3968

Melon honeydew

4719

Potato (boiled, no skin)

5000

Bread Country Grains (Abbotts)

5250

Bread  Mixed Grains (Helgas)

5778

Special K

 

6192

Brown rice (medium grain)

6514

Walnuts (shelled)

12716

Orange juice (canned, unsweetened, inc from concentrate)

16417

 

(files uploaded as xcel spreadsheet and pdf copy)

 

Fibre energy content of foods.xlsx

Fibre energy content of foods.pdf

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A few thoughts:

  • Nuts are most definitely a valuable source of fibre.  While quite calorie-dense, they are also nutrient-dense, so you pick up a lot of micro-nutrients along the way.  Brazil nuts are slightly higher in fibre than walnuts, but it is prudent to eat a variety, in order to gain a broader spread of nutrients.
  • Fibre is important, but much of what it does - contribute to good gut health by providing non-digestible that passes through the gut, largely unchanged - can also be achieved with similarly non-digestible animal products such as connective tissue (cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, skin).  This is part of what makes bone broth so good for you.  Also a good reason (among many others) for eating nose-to-tail.
  • The evidence for the need for fibre in the diet is compelling.  However, the research from which these figures came, is all epidemiological; so the numbers are subjective, at best.
  • The composition of the diet overall will almost certainly affect the amount of fibre that one requires to achieve optimal health (if such a thing exists).

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@pogo69 Nuts are certainly nutient-dense, so are valuable for that reason (and that is why I eat them). As for being a valuable source of fibre, I'd say if you eat enough nuts to make a significant difference to your fibre intake, you will be consuming too many kJ (or calories). In other words, I DISAGREE with the oft-stated opinion that nuts (or hazelnuts at least, which are the only ones I looked at) are a valuable source of fibre.

I agree that the information is all epidmiological - this is all we have to go on - which is so often the case in health studies. But while the results may be uncertain, they are still valuable (though should be taken with a pinch of salt, as always with epidemiological studies).

I'd never heard about non-digestible animal parts, and their effects, and whether they can stand in for plant fibre - I need to look that up.

Jim.

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