Back to Basics: Let’s Talk Fibre

February 2024 - Nutrition

When modifying dietary habits, it is common to focus on analyzing calorie intake and the amounts of added sugars, fats, proteins and carbohydrates. However, one vital nutrient that tends to be overlooked is dietary fibre. While fibre is not a hot topic or buzz word, it is something we should take note of since our fibre intake is not what it used to be. In fact, studies show that a large majority of Canadians don’t even consume half of the recommended daily dietary fibre and our health may be showing it. Adults need 25 to 35 grams of fibre a day to maintain not only healthy digestion and elimination but also balanced blood sugar, cholesterol levels, colon cancer prevention, toxin detox and healthy gut bacteria.

What exactly is fibre?
Fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate derived from plant-based foods that passes through our digestive tract while doing a lot of work on its way through. Certain types of fibre dissolve in water, while others do not. The presence of both soluble and insoluble fibre is crucial for maintaining optimal health.

Insoluble Fibre
Insoluble fibre is often the classic image you have when you think of fibre. It is roughage that helps to keep you regular. It helps keep us satiated when we eat and in the end adds bulk to our stool. It’s found in whole grains, nuts and certain veggies, especially broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Because of the foods it is found in, it is often the type of fibre that can cause some digestive upset like gas, bloating or constipation (especially if not consumed with its BFFs—soluble fibre and enough water).

Soluble Fibre
Soluble fibre absorbs water into the intestine and creates a gel that supports digestion in several ways. Not only does it act as a lubricant for insoluble fibre, helping keep things running in a smooth and timely manner, it’s the heavy lifter for some of the other health benefits of fibre. Soluble fibre helps slow digestion, supporting blood glucose control while absorbing some fat and cholesterol and preventing them from being digested, thus improving cholesterol levels and supporting weight management. Soluble fibre is found in some fruits like apples and oranges, vegetables like carrots, oats, barley, lentils and beans.

How to get more
It is important to eat a variety of fibre-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types of fibre. As with any dietary change, start with small goals, especially with fibre; if you don’t normally eat a large amount and suddenly eat too much too fast, you could end up with some digestive upset. Keep track of how much fibre your current diet is providing, and if needed, start by increasing fibre by 2 to 4 grams at each meal. And if your daily diet doesn’t allow it, then a supplement is highly recommended—and don’t worry, fibre supplements have come a long way from the grainy mixes your grandpa may have used. Come in and chat to one of our wellness team members or book a free 30-minute consultation with a nutritionist. 

Article was published in The Good Life magazine.

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