A heart-healthy diet includes foods that are high in fibre. Good sources of fibre can be found mainly in two food groups: grain products, including whole grains such as wild and brown rice and oatmeal, and vegetables and fruit. Meat alternatives such as beans and lentils also provide a high source of fibre.
Fibre is a vital part of a healthy diet, but most of us are getting less than half the recommended amount. A healthy adult needs 21 to 38 grams a day, but surveys show that the average daily Canadian intake is about 14 grams.
Easy ways to boost fibre intake
The good news is that you don't have to radically alter your diet in order to increase your fibre consumption. Simply switching from a refined breakfast cereal to a high-fibre one (such as a 100% bran cereal), from white bread to 100% whole-wheat bread with the germ, or from white rice to brown rice, can make a dramatic difference in your fibre intake and your overall health. Canada's Food Guide recommends making at least half of your grain product servings whole grain each day. Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar and salt.
Fibre is a carbohydrate found in plants. But unlike other carbohydrates, it passes through the body undigested. That means fibre adds zero calories – a bonus if you're trying to manage your weight. Studies show that women who consumed more fibre were half as likely to be obese as those who consumed less fibre. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
When eating high-fibre foods, make sure to have plenty of fluids such as water or soups to help your digestive system work better.
Shopping for high fibre
Carbohydrates are an essential part of heart-healthy eating. Found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes, carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for the body. They also have a wealth of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and folic acid, and they're an important source of fibre. Canada's Food Guide recommends choosing at least one dark-green (such as broccoli, chard, gai lan, romaine lettuce, spinach) and orange vegetable (such as sweet potatoes, carrots, squash) each day because they are rich in folate and vitamin A.
If you are looking to try some interesting, new foods with healthy carbohydrates, check out the suggestions in this article.
There are two types of carbohydrates, complex and simple, and they act very differently in the body.
Canada's Food Guide recommends that the number of grain servings depends on your age and gender. They are:
Recommended number of Food Guide servings per day of grains
One Food Guide Serving of Grain Products equals: 1 slice bread, bagel, pita; 125 mL (1/2 cup) cooked rice, bulgur or quinoa; 30 g cold cereal or 175 mL (3/4 cup) hot cereal; or 125 mL (1/2 cup) cooked pasta or couscous.
Recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day of vegetables and fruit
One Food Guide serving of Vegetables and Fruit equals: 125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh, frozen or canned vegetables; 250 ml (1 cup) leafy vegetables, raw: 1 fruit or 125mL (1/2 cup) fresh, frozen or canned fruits 125 mL(1/2 cup) 100% juice.
Recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day of meat and alternatives
Children Teens Adults 2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 Years 19-50 Years 51+ Years Girls and Boys Female Male Female Male Female Male Meat and 1 1 2 2 3 2 3 2 3
Girls and Boys
Canada’s Food Guide recommends that you have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often. One Food Guide serving of a meat alternative is: 175 mL (3/4 cup) cooked legumes; 150g or 175mL (3/4 cup) tofu; 30 mL (2 tbsp) peanut or nut butters and 60 mL (1/4 cup) shelled nuts and seeds.
Last reviewed: April 2011