No doubt you’ve seen products that boast the nutritional claim “high in fibre”. What exactly is fibre? And why are high amounts good for you?
Fibre is the name given to the indigestible parts of food that pass through our body. Fibre is what gives shape and texture to our food, like the crunch of an apple or the chewiness of whole grain bread. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
- Absorbs water
- Slows movement of food through intestine and provides bulk to the stool (so we don’t have diarrhea all the time)
- E.g. oats, barley, legumes, nuts, psyllium, fruits (apples, bananas, oranges)
- Attracts, but does not absorb water
- It is the tough, fibrous structure of fruit, veggies and grains
- Speeds up movement through the intestine and helps with stool elimination (so we are not constipated all the time!)
- E.g. wheat bran, whole grains, flaxseed, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, skins of fruits and root vegetables
As you can see, it is important to have a mix of BOTH soluble and insoluble fibre. We don’t want to have diarrhea all the time but we don’t want to be permanently constipated either!
Besides keeping our digestive system going, dietary fibre is important in other ways:
- May reduce the risk of heart disease by delaying or physically blocking the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the bloodstream. Fibre also contributes small amounts of fatty acids that may lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to healthful levels in our bodies
- Helps control blood sugar. Along with slowing the movement of food, soluble fibre also slows the release of glucose into the blood, improving the body’s regulation of insulin production and blood glucose levels.
- Reduces the risk of diverticulosis, a condition that is caused in part by trying to eliminate small, hard stools.
- Helps in the maintenance of a healthy body weight because foods that are high in fibre often make us feel fuller for longer
Where does fibre come from?
- Skin on fruits (apples, pears)
- Whole grains like oats, barley, rye and wheat (*Make sure it says “whole” before grain!)
- Dates, prunes
- Ground flaxseed (contains both soluble and insoluble fibre!)
- Chia seeds
How much fibre should we be eating?
The recommended adequate intake of fibre is 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men. Most Canadians consume less than HALF of this amount. Not good!
An example menu for a daily intake of ~30g of fibre includes:
- High fibre cereal for breakfast with a piece of fresh fruit
- Sandwich made with whole grain bread for lunch plus fresh raw vegetables with hummus dip
- Snack of low-fat yogurt with slivered nuts and dried fruit
- Spaghetti made with whole-wheat pasta and a garden salad for dinner
- Fresh fruit for dessert
Other tips on fibre:
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as a snack more frequently
- When choosing foods like bread or breakfast cereal, select those that have at least 2-3g of fibre per serving
- Eat foods like potatoes, apples and pears with the skin on
- Use hummus as a dip for raw veggies (tons of fibre in chickpeas!)
- Eat legumes frequently. Canned or fresh beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
- Sprinkle wheat germ, bran, or ground flaxseeds on yogurt, cereal, or add to smoothies.
- Add nuts, seeds or dried fruit to yogurt and salads
Every little bit helps!