Fabulous Fibre

What is fibre?

Fibre is a carbohydrate that passes through your body without being fully digested. There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre provides bulk to the stool which helps with regular bowel movements. Examples of insoluble fibre include wheat bran, whole grains, seeds, and the skin of fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibre lowers the risk of heart disease by decreasing the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood.  Soluble fibre is found in legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), whole grain pasta, brown rice, oats and some fruits and green vegetables. Both types of fibre are necessary in a healthy diet.

How much fibre do I need?

According to the latest guidelines from the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should consume 25-50g of fibre per day.1  On average Canadians consume only 14 grams of fibre per day!2

What does fibre do?

Since fibre is not fully digested it has many health benefits. Fibre plays a role in the following:

  • Stabilization of blood glucose:  Although fibre is a type of carbohydrate, its unique structure is not broken down into glucose and absorbed by the body.  As a result fibre does not raise blood glucose levels. Fibre slows down the movement of food through the digestive tract and results in a slower absorption of glucose into the blood stream. This reduces the blood glucose spike after a meal.
  • Weight management:   When fibre enters the digestive system it expands due to absorption of water from digestive juices. This expansion slows down the speed of digestion, delays hunger, and creates a feeling of fullness.
  • Heart health: Plaque is made up of fatty deposits that combine with minerals and stick to artery walls. Plaque build-up reduces the size of the blood vessel which leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. One component of plaque is LDL (aka ‘Lousy’) cholesterol. Consuming a diet high in soluble fibre helps remove LDL cholesterol from the blood, which in turn helps prevent plaque build-up. This reduces risk for heart disease, the number one cause of death for people with diabetes.3
  • Improve digestive health: Fibre increases bulk in the digestive tract and helps keep bowel movements regular. This may decrease the risk of certain cancers.

Where can I find fibre?

Fibre sources include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Ways to increase the fibre in your diet are:

  • Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables. Skin provides extra fibre and also makes sure that you get all the nutrients that hide directly underneath the skin. Make sure you wash fruit and veggies thoroughly before eating!  
    Note: Eat your fibre don’t drink it! A 138 gram apple provides 2.6 grams of fibre and 19 grams of carbohydrate. A cup of apple juice, on the other hand, provides only 0.2 grams of fibre but twice the amount of carbohydrate!    
  • When shopping for grain products, such as crackers, bread, and pasta check to see that it is made with 100% whole grain. The best way to do this is to look at the ingredient list. Within the first few ingredients there should be a listing of ‘whole grain’ written before the type of grain, e.g. whole grain oats.
  • Try eating vegetarian meals once or twice a weak. Substitute legumes for beef, pork, chicken, or fish. These are great sources of both protein and fibre! Don’t forget that legumes contain carbohydrates which contribute to the overall carbohydrate content of your meal.

Remember: When you increase the fibre in your diet, be sure to increase the amount of water you consume as well. This will help you avoid constipation and cramping.

Did you know?

When using food labels to determine the amount of carbohydrate in a product fibre must be taken into account. Since our body does not breakdown fibre into glucose we do not need to include it when counting carbohydrates.  To count the number of carbohydrates in a product, subtract the total grams of fibre from the total grams of carbohydrate. This will give you the total amount of carbohydrate that affects blood glucose in the product.

Fibre content of common foods:4

Food

Fibre (g)

Pear with skin (medium)

5

Peach with skin (medium)

2

Banana (medium)

2

Prunes (1 Cup)

14

Prune Juice  (1 Cup)

3

Carrots (½ C)

2

Green peas (½ C)

4

Chickpeas ( ½ C)

6

Red Kidney beans (¾ Cup)

12

Nuts (60 ml)

1-4

Whole grain bread (1 slice)

2

Steel cut oats (¼ Cup)

4

Lentils, boiled  ( ½ Cup)

4.5

Breakfast cereals with whole grains
and bran (1 Cup)

6 – 28 

Whole Wheat Crackers (4 crackers)

2

Cookies (2 cookies)

0.2-1

1. Canadian Diabetes Association, “Canadian Diabetes Association 2008 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Diabetes, no.32 (2008): 1. 
2. Heart and Stroke Foundation, “Fibre, whole grains and carbohydrates,” http://www.heartandstroke.com (accessed August 6, 2009).
3. Canadian Diabetes Association, “More Canadians then ever before Now at Risk,” http://diabetes.ca (accessed August 6, 2009)
4 Health Canada, “Canadian Nutrient File,” Food and Nutrition, http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/cnf-fce/start-debuter.do?lang=eng (accessed July 31, 2009).
>
AdChoices