Increasing Fibre Intake-The Whole Grain Truth
I often tell people that of all the things they can do, increasing their daily fibre intake is probably one of the most important (and magical). A diet low in fibre can result in loose stool and diarrhea, slow digestion and constipation. Fibre is responsible for making a meal more satiating (in other words, helps you feel full sooner and longer), balancing blood sugars, lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of colon cancer and cardiovascular disease, aiding in weight loss and improving digestion. See…magical!
There are 2 types of fibre:
Insoluble fibre which is found in the skins of vegetables and fruit and the bran portion of whole grains. Insoluble fibre helps promote regularity and a healthy digestive system.
Soluble fibre can be found in some vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes such as dried beans and peas. Soluble fibre can help slow the digestion of food.
This is the type of fibre which can have the most beneficial health effects. Everyone should aim for approximately 10 grams per day. This amount has been shown to lower blood cholesterol, control blood glucose levels, reduce some symptoms of IBS and manage diarrhea or loose stools.
How much should I have?
Men and women should aim for 21-38 grams of total fibre daily.
What do I look for on the label?
When you pick up a loaf of bread or a boxed product you need to check the label for ‘whole grain’. Some ‘brown bread’ is actually colored using molasses and is in fact no higher in fibre content than your average white bread. Another word to look for is ‘enriched’. If a product is enriched it means that all of the nutrients have been stripped and then added back to this product. Whole grains contain the bran and the germ which is where all of the nutrients and fibre are located. During processing these layers are removed. The last thing to look for is the word ‘inulin’. This is a naturally occurring fibre in some vegetables but if you’ve seen it in packed foods then it has been added during the enriching process and is not normally found in that product. While inulin does add fibre to products it is highly fermentable in our guts which means it can cause excess bloating and gas.
The moral of this story? It is better to choose foods in their natural and whole forms as often as possible.
Ways to incorporate more fibre into your diet…
-choosing whole grain breads and cereals more often
-having fruits and vegetables with each meal (1 serving of fruit with breakfast, lunch and as desert, 1 cup or 2 servings of vegetables with lunch and supper)
-incorporating beans and legumes into your diet at least twice per week (black beans, kidney beans, chick peas, lima beans, pinto beans, etc)
-add ground flaxseed, chia seeds or hemp hearts to foods you are already eating to increase their fibre content
- 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed or chia seeds or both to morning yogurt, cereal or rolled oats
- 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed or chia seeds and 1 Tbsp of hemp hearts to smoothies
- 1/4 cup of ground flax added to chili or sauces such as spaghetti sauce
- replace 1/4 amount of flour in baking with ground flaxseed
- sprinkle ground flaxseed over pizza, casserole or lasagna before adding cheese
**increase fibre intake slowly and insure that you are drinking an adequate amount of fluids to decrease chances of bloating, gas or diarrhea