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What you need to know about fibre

Updated: Nov 25, 2022


Read here to learn what fibre is, why it's important, and how to get more in through diet.



Key Messages

  1. Most Canadians don't meet half their daily fibre requirements.

  2. There are two types of fibre - soluble and insoluble.

  3. Increase your daily fibre to improve digestion, keep you regular, manage weight, lower cholesterol, and reduce risk of chronic disease.

  4. Add fibre to your diet by increasing daily vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.




Fibre is found in so many foods, but most Canadians do not get enough from diet.

With busy lifestyles and convenience culture, people are leaning more and more towards packaged and processed foods, fast food, restaurant food delivery, etc.


The fact that about half of Canadians do not meet their daily fibre requirements goes hand in hand with the fact that most Canadians do not get the recommended daily amount of vegetables and fruit.


But fibre is pretty ubiquitous, being found in many healthy convenience foods (Ex. trail mix, vegetables and fruits).


There are numerous ways to boost your fibre through diet, without having to make a lifestyle or dietary overhaul.


So let's talk about what fibre is, why it's important, and how to increase fibre in your diet.




Why is fibre important?




You have probably at least heard that fibre is important for health. Well, it is!


Fibre has a ton of benefits, including:


  • Keeping you regular

  • Improving digestion

  • Lowering your cholesterol

  • Controlling blood sugar

  • Controlling body weight

  • Lowering risk of heart disease

  • Lowering risk of some cancers such as colon cancer




What is dietary fibre



Dietary fibre is non-digestible carbohydrate found in plant foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grain cereals, nuts, and seeds.


It can be grouped in two main types – Insoluble and soluble fibre, each having separate and complementary health benefits. So it's good to get both.


Soluble fibre helps control blood sugars and lowers cholesterol. It is found is some fruits and vegetables, and grains like oats and chia seeds (it’s why your chia puddings and overnight oats absorb all the water!). It is also found in legumes like beans and lentils.


Insoluble fibre helps keep you regular. It is found in vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and wheat bran.



Is all fibre created equal?



No, but all the many wonderful fibre types have both unique, and complementary effects on health.


Like I mentioned above, you have two main groups of fibre – Insoluble and soluble. And each group many different fibre types within each group, with many different positive effects. For example beta-glucan is one type of soluble fibre found in oats that has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve heart health.


Should you take fibre supplements?



Fibre supplements often contain only one or two types of fibre - So you may be missing out on the many benefits of all the different fibres found in different foods.


Whole foods on the other hand, contain a variety of different fibres!


If you are unable to get fibre from diet, supplements can help. Supplements typically use inexpensive forms of fibre, sell them at a high price, and use fibre in their product health or nutrient claim. Unfortunately sometimes these claims can be misleading in the context of the person and their entire diet and lifestyle.


The best option is a varied diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.


Save your money on pricey supplements and instead buy more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains!


Supplements can help you meet daily goals - But the best option is a varied diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.


Use these foods to increase your fibre!!



By adding the following foods to your diet:


  • Vegetables

  • Fruit

  • Whole Grains

  • Legumes (Ex. Beans, peas, and lentils)

  • Nuts and seeds

By following one or more of these practical strategies:


  • Eat a balanced and varied diet of whole foods, and include other healthy lifestyle options like exercise and sleep.

  • Eat more vegetables (and fruit) as snacks.

  • Choose whole grain products over simple carbs.

  • Include high fibre foods in your baking, such as bananas or applesauce instead of sugar, or adding in oats, flaxseed, bran flakes, and other whole grains. Banana bread and chocolate zucchini bread are great options!

  • Choose some meals to be vegetarian, with a focus on vegetables and/or legumes.

  • Compare nutrition labels, choose the one with more fibre per serving.

  • Remember to aim for 25 to 38 grams of fibre per day (depending on age/gender).

  • Make sure that when increasing fibre in your diet, you drink more water (at least 2-3 litres per day). – This will help prevent constipation.

  • Consider dietary supplementation if the above are not possible.



Check out my latest post for making a high fibre, nutritionally complete smoothie!




A note on fibre and weight loss



Ample research shows that a getting enough dietary fibre, in addition to many other health related benefits, can help with appetite regulation, adhering to diets, and improved weight loss outcomes.


I will explore in an upcoming post the research on fibre and weight loss and weight management. But long story short - fibre keeps you full.


By eating foods that keep you full, in combination with good meal patterning, you can reduce your daily calories. This isn't always easy, as we all lead different busy lifestyles. This is why it may be worth considering working with a dietitian if your goal is to lose or manage your weight. A dietitian can help you define and implement practical strategies that fit your lifestyle, and your goals.



Below is a sample meal plan, and a recipe for a fibre packed smoothie.


High fibre example day


Breakfast


Smoothie bowl: Two cups greek yogurt, 1 cup blueberries, 60g rolled oats and 2Tbsp flax.


Snack


Two cups baby carrots and celery

3/4 cup hummus.


Lunch


Two cups white bean and turkey chili

One medium whole grain pita


Dinner

Lemon garlic chicken breast with two cups cup cauliflower/broccoli, and one cup wild rice.


High Fibre Breakfast Smoothie


Makes 4 servings


  • Two cups Frozen mango

  • One cup frozen raspberry

  • Half cup oats

  • Two Tbsp flaxseed

  • Quarter cup bran flakes

  • Two cups skim milk or unsweetened soy milk

  • One cup ice or water

Directions


Blend and pour into four different cups (or use mason jars for grab-and-go)



Other high fibre snack ideas


  • Berries, such as blueberries raspberries blackberries and strawberries.

  • Baby carrots with hummus Mini bell peppers with hummus

  • Roasted edamame beans

  • Air popped popcorn with smoked paprika

  • Low-fat plain or Greek yogurt topped with flaxseed


Final takeaways...


  • Most people do not get enough fibre in their diet.

  • Fibre contributes to many positive health outcomes including keeping you regular, and managing and/or preventing chronic disease.

  • Getting more fibre in your diet can be made simple by adding whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

  • Appropriate amounts of dietary fibre are only one part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. Consider working with a registered dietitian to optimize sustainable strategies.



So there you have it, lot's of fibre (info) to help keep you full (of information)!



Let me know...




What strategies have you tried to boost your daily fiber?


What questions do you have about fibre and diet?


Comment below, and follow me on social media for more nutrition advice, recipes, and more!




About me: I'm Daniel Neuman, a Registered Dietitian and owner of Edmonton-based nutrition consulting company, Simplify Nutrition. I'm also a passionate foodie learning and teaching about global foods, evidence based nutrition, and practical cooking skills. If you like the content, stay connected. If you want to work with me, get in touch! I offer private cooking classes and nutrition consulting in-person and online!

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THANK YOU FOR READING!!




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