You had breakfast not that long ago, and your stomach is already growling. You can’t figure out why you’re so hungry! The way it looks right now, you aren’t going to be able to make it to lunch. Sound familiar?
Here’s another scenario for you. You aren’t too excited to admit it, but your bowel movements are super inconsistent and are usually a lot of effort. Constipation is just the regular for you. Does that sound familiar?
These couple of scenarios can be helped by adding one little thing to your diet. That is fibre. Bet you’ve heard of it. Well get ready, because we are going to chat about fibre in detail, and how it benefits you.
Short Term Perks
In the above scenarios, we talked about immediate, short term benefits of fibre. Fibre aids in satiety and helps keep you full longer after a meal.
Fibre is also known for keeping you regular, it can help with day-to-day constipation or mixed bowel movement patterns. Now let's take a look at the long-term benefits fibre provides.
Long Term Benefits
Eating more fibre can reduce the risk of multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. Among these, there is evidence that fibre has extended benefits on overall health and has been shown to reduce the risk of early death (1).
- Eating enough fibre, especially soluble fibre, lowers LDL, or ‘bad’, cholesterol (2).
- Fibre helps control blood sugars, and reduce the post-meal blood sugar spike. This is important for individuals with type 2 diabetes, as well as those who do not have diabetes- really, it’s great for everyone!
- Eating more fibre reduces the risk of cancers, including colorectal and gastric cancers (1).
- There is also emerging evidence on the effect of fibre on the gut microbiota, which has effects on the immune system, and inflammatory responses in the body. However, more research is needed on this.
It's pretty clear that fibre is great for you, with even more benefits being found as we keep learning. So now you might be wondering: what exactly is fibre? And where can I find it?
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre
Fibre is part of the carbohydrate family, but unlike sugars and starches, fibre isn't actually broken down by your body. It's non-digestible, and as we've chatted about, there are benefits to that.
There are two types of fibre. Soluble, and insoluble. Most foods with fibre have both, but some foods have more of one or the other. The key to getting the benefits of both is to eat a variety of fibre-rich foods.
- Soluble fibre, as the name suggests, mixes well with water. This fibre helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugars. This fibre absorbs water, and so it can also help with diarrhea. Some foods that contain soluble fibre are fruits (apples, oranges), vegetables (carrots, eggplant), oats, barley, psyllium, flaxseed, and legumes (beans, lentils).
- Insoluble fibre works a bit differently. This is more of a bulking agent, and is the fibre that keeps you regular. Some foods that contain insoluble fibre are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and wheat bran (3).
Now you know more about fibre and how great it is for you. By starting to watch your fibre intake, you are already taking a step towards improving your health today, and in the future!
Check out Eating a High Fibre Diet to see how much fibre you should aim for and practical examples of how to add more fibre to your day.
1) Dahl, W.J & Stewart, M.L. (2015). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fibre. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 115(11):1861-1870. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.0032.
2) Anderson, T.J., Gregoire, J., Pearson, G.J., Stone, J.A., Thanassoulis, G., Ward, R. (2016). 2016 Canadian Cardiovascular Society Guidelines for the Management of Dyslipidemia for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in the Adult. CJC. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2016.07.510
3) Dietitians of Canada (2018). Focus on Fibre. Unlockfood.ca. https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Fibre/Focus-on-Fibre.aspx