To Fibre or Not To Fibre?

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Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

Let's be honest, fibre doesn't always get the best reputation because it's not seen as anything 'tasty'! But it's a necessary part of our regular diet. We break down how fibre can help you in more ways than you realize. 

What Exactly is Fibre?

Dietary fibre is a natural part of plant-derived food that can’t be completely digested by the human body (1). There are many physiological functions in humans depending on the composition of the fibre, but the two most important ones are soluble and insoluble fibre.

Soluble Fibre:

This type of fibre dissolves in water and often form viscous gels and bind to nutrients in the GI tract. Which is great because it means decreased absorption of fatty acids, cholesterol, and blood glucose, leading to a beneficial effect on lowering cholesterol levels and improving glycemic control (2). Some examples are apples, citrus fruits, carrots, oats, barley.

Insoluble Fibre:

If you've ever felt constipated, then insoluble fibre is your friend. This type increases fecal bulk, increases movement down the digestive system, and decreases transit time through faster movement (2). Some examples are whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, potatoes.

Some foods high in fibre:

  • Whole grain products
  • Legumes such as dried bean, lentils, soybeans
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

How A High Fibre Diet Helps Your Body

  • Control blood sugar levels: It slows absorption of sugar and helps with glycemic control - which is great for people with diabetes!
  • Reduces risk of type 2 Diabetes: Diets with insoluble fibre help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The fibre increases the release of peptides that improves pancreatic beta cell growth (which produces insulin). This improves production and sensitivity of insulin and decreases glucose production in the liver (2).
  • Lowers cholesterol levels: Fibre takes LDL, the “bad cholesterol”, to make more/maintain sufficient bile for digestion (3).
        • Types of foods vary:
          • 10 g per day of pectins and gums
          • Up to 150g of dried beans or legumes
          • Consumption of 6-10 servings per day of soluble fibre
          • 2-4 servings per day of legumes or oat/barley -based cereals
  • Bowel Health: Lowers the risk of developing hemorrhoids, small pouches in your colon, and colorectal cancer. Some fibres are fermented in the colon and increase beneficial bacteria in your gut.
  • Normalizes bowel movements: Increases weight and size of stool and decreases chances of constipation (4).
  • Reduces risk of heart disease: Health Canada’s bureau of Nutritional Sciences concluded that there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the health claim that consumption of vegetables and fruits are associated with reduced risk of heart disease (5). 
  • Reduces risk of certain cancers: the ability to bind to and contribute to the excretion of carcinogens and the decrease in fecal pH reduces risk for colon cancer.

  • How much fibre do you need?

    Women need about 25 grams of fibre per day|
    Men need about 38 grams of fibre per day (5)
    (The average Canadian is only getting ½ of recommendations by Health Canada!)

    Tips to Increase Fibre In Your Diet:

    • High fibre breakfast meals
      • Opt for cereals with “whole grain”, “bran”, or “fibre”
    • Eat more whole grains
      • Brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta
    • Add legumes
      • This includes beans, peas, lentils e.g. Add kidney beans to canned soup
    • Eat these snacks throughout the day:
      • Reduced sodium popcorn, raw vegetables, fresh fruits

    Although fibre is good for health, it's important to not change your diet dramatically, but slowly add these tips over a few days. Start your fibre intake in moderation, as an excess of any types of food will cause adverse effects.

    Remember to always consult a dietitian or health professional before taking any new supplements or starting a different health plan.

    Written by: Lilia Laihem
    Edited by: Ev Wong

    References:

    1. Felson, Sabrina. "Dietary Fiber for Constipation: How Much You Need." WebMD. WebMD, 26 July 2020. Web. 03 Nov. 2020.
    2. McRorie, Johnson W., and Nicola M. McKeown. "Understanding the Physics of Functional Fibers in the Gastrointestinal Tract: An Evidence-Based Approach to Resolving Enduring Misconceptions about Insoluble and Soluble Fiber." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 117, no. 2, 2017;2016;, pp. 251-264.
    3. Hoang Vi Thanh Ho, Elena Jovanovski, Andreea Zurbau, Sonia Blanco Mejia, John L Sievenpiper, Fei Au-Yeung, Alexandra L Jenkins, Lea Duvnjak, Lawrence Leiter, Vladimir Vuksan, A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effect of konjac glucomannan, a viscous soluble fiber, on LDL cholesterol and the new lipid targets non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 105, Issue 5, May 2017, Pages 1239–1247,
    4. Vladimir Vuksan, Alexandra L Jenkins, David JA Jenkins, Alexander L Rogovik, John L Sievenpiper, Elena Jovanovski, Using cereal to increase dietary fiber intake to the recommended level and the effect of fiber on bowel function in healthy persons consuming North American diets, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 88, Issue 5, November 2008, Pages 1256–1262
    5. Bureau of Nutritional Sciences. Summary of Health Canada's Assessment of a Health Claim about Vegetables and Fruit and Heart Disease. Rep. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2016. Print.
    6. Canada, Health. "Government of Canada." Canada.ca. / Gouvernement Du Canada, 22 Jan. 2019. Web. 03 Nov. 2020.

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