We’ve all seen food product commercials promoting their fibre content…but what’s so special about it?
Functional fibres impart on or more of the following effects:
- Promote regularity (insoluble)
- Reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels (soluble)
- Regulate blood sugar response (soluble)
Fibre can be broken down into soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibres cannot be broken down, so they act as a clean-up crew for the digestive tract → prevents constipation. Soluble fibres act like a blood vessel clean-up crew → they form a gel-like consistency, latch on to cholesterol, and helps remove it from our arteries. Due to the Heart Health specific benefits of soluble fibre, we’ll focus on it for this post.
Most Canadian’s do not get enough fibre in our diets due to poor fruit/veggie intake (ideally 8-10/day) and over-consumption of processed wheat/grains (stripped of fibre content). The recommended daily consumption is set at about 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men. Unfortunately, the average intake is somewhere closer to 15g/day!
I can’t stress this enough to clients – increasing you fibre intake is one of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your health and promote balance! Basically, if you’re eating enough functional fibre, there is very little room for unhealthy carbohydrate choices.
Why is it so important?
Countless studies have demonstrated that coronary heart disease (CHD) risk is slashed as fibre intake increases. In a massive review of research on almost 300,000 subjects, it was demonstrated that a 10g/day increase in total dietary fibre related to a 14% decreased risk of all coronary events and a 27% decrease in coronary death (1). These kinds of results have been reproduced in time and time again.
On top of that, soluble fibre helps with the regulation of blood sugar levels which can help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes…and the effects are enhanced when combined with a low glycemic index carbohydrate choices (2, 3, 4).
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends 25-38g/day (made up of a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre). For those who want a more precise recommendation, consider fibre intake in relation to your total caloric intake: 14g/1000kcal (i.e. a male eating a 3000kcal/day diet can consume 42g of fibre to meet adequate intake criteria).
Soluble: oats, barley, psyllium, legumes (beans, soy) and fruit.
Insoluble: bran, whole wheat, brown rice and vegetables.
Here is a useful chart from the Heart and Stroke Foundation:
|Fibre-less food||Grams of fibre per serving||Fibre-rich food||Grams of fibre per serving|
|Meat or poultry||0 g per 75 g or 2 ½ oz||Red kidney beans||12 g per ¾ cup|
|Chicken noodle soup||2 g per 1 cup||Lentil soup||12 g per 1 cup|
|Corn Flakes cereal||1 g per 1 cup (30g)||Fibre first/ bran budsBran flakes||12 g per 1/3 cup (30g)5 g per 1 cup (30g)|
|Chili con carne||4 g per 1 cup||Vegetarian chili||9 g per 1 cup|
|White pasta||3 g per 1 ½ cups cooked||Whole wheat pasta||8 g per 1 ½ cups cooked|
|Chocolate chip muffin||2 g per muffin||Raisin Bran muffin||5 g per muffin|
|Apple juice||0.1 g per ½ cup||Apple||3 g per apple with skin|
|White rice||0.8 g per 1 cup cooked||Brown rice||3 g per 1 cup cooked|
|Chips – regular||0.8 g per 10 chips (20 g)||Microwave popcorn||3 g per 2 ½ cups (20 g)|
|White bread||1 g per slice||100% whole-grain bread||2.2 g per slice|
3 simple steps to up your fibre intake
- Switch out 2 fibre-less foods for 2 fibre-rich foods this week
- If your cereal is low in fibre, dress it up with nuts and seeds
- Add 2-3 servings of veggies to your daily diet (aiming for 8-10 servings of veggies and fruits each day)
Keep in mind
- You must increase your water intake when increasing your fibre intake.
- For individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, insoluble fibre may aggravate symptoms (such as bloating and abdominal pain) → soluble fibre is on the OK list, but it would be best to speak to your ND for clarification specific to your case
- Pereira MA, O’Reilly E, Augustsson K, Fraser GE, Goldbourt U, Heitmann BL, Hallmans G, Knekt P, Liu S, Pietinen P, Spiegelman D, Stevens J, Virtamo J, WIllett WC, Ascherio A. Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164(4):370-6.
- Meyer KA, Kushi LH, Jacobs DR Jr, Slavin J, Sellers TA, Folsom AR. Carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and incident type 2 diabetes in older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 71(4):921-30.
- Salmerón J, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, Spiegelman D, Jenkins DJ, Stampfer MJ, Wing AL, Willett WC. Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of NIDDM in men. Diabetes Care. 1997; 20(4):545-50.
- Colditz GA, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Rosner B, Willett WC, Speizer FE. Diet and risk of clinical diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992; 55(5):1018-23.