It’s no secret that we should be eating more fibre. After all, the average American only gets about 15 grams per day, compared to the 25-38 grams recommended by Health Canada. Despite its reputation as an unglamorous nutrient, research has shown that increasing your daily intake of dietary fibre can have a range of benefits for your health. In this blog, we look at why you need more fibre, which types are best, and foods that are good sources.
What is fibre?
Fibres are polysaccharides (carbohydrates) that are found in plants but not in animals. Dietary fibres are those that come from food sources, while non-dietary fibres are found in the intestines, skin and muscles. While there are many types of dietary fibres, the most common ones are: – Soluble fibres, e.g. inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), psyllium husk, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) – Insoluble fibres, e.g. cellulose, hemicellulose – Fermentable fibres, e.g. inulin, FOS, β-glucan, CMC, resistant starch (RS)
Why you need more fibre
The main reasons why increasing your fibre intake could be beneficial are: – Improved digestive health: The bulkier nature of fibre means that it takes longer to break down in your gut. This helps promote regular bowel movements, as well as a healthy gut microbiome. – Weight management: The full feeling that fibre promotes can also help with weight management, since it can help you feel full for longer. – Reduced risk of disease: Increased fibre intake has been linked with a lower risk of a range of diseases, including certain types of cancer. – Improved blood sugar control: Studies have shown that soluble fibres like psyllium can help with blood sugar control when consumed with a meal.
Which type of fibre is best?
As we’ve seen, there are many types of dietary fibres. Some are more beneficial than others, but there’s no need to get too bogged down in the details. The general rule is to eat a wide variety of fibre-rich foods and gradually increase your daily intake. – Soluble fibres have been shown to have the most health benefits, so these should be your top fibre priority. – Insoluble fibres also have benefits for digestive health and blood sugar control, but to a lesser extent. – Fermentable fibres are of less concern in terms of health, but they can still provide a few benefits if consumed in moderation.
Good sources of dietary fibre
Fibre is found in plant foods such as vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Grains and dairy products also contain some fibre. The following foods are good sources of dietary fibre, and can be included in a fibre-rich diet: – Beans and legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, beans). – Whole grains (e.g. oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa). – Nuts and seeds (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pistachios). – Fruit (e.g. apples, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries). – Vegetables (e.g. broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peas, peppers). – Dairy products (e.g. yogurt, milk, cheese, buttermilk).
The benefits of a high-fibre diet
As we’ve seen, the main benefits of a high-fibre diet are better digestive health and weight management. There are other potential benefits too, although these are less well understood. – A high-fibre diet may also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, partially due to its ability to reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. – High-fibre intake has also been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, although the reasons for this still aren’t clear. – Fibre may also help prevent certain types of cancers, including colorectal, breast and ovarian cancers. – Finally, those who eat a high-fibre diet are at a reduced risk of diverticular disease, an intestinal disorder. – However, it is important to note that these potential benefits are linked to increased fibre intake over a long period of time.
How to increase your dietary fibre intake
Increasing your fibre intake is easier than you think. Here are a few tips to help you up your fibre intake. – Go for whole grains: Whole grains are a better choice than refined grains, which are low in fibre. – Eat more vegetables: Vegetables are rich in fibre and other nutrients. – Be consistent: You need to be consistent over time to see long-term benefits. – Aim for a gradual increase: Gradually increasing your daily fibre intake is the best approach. What about supplements? Are they a good way to increase your fibre intake? Unfortunately, the evidence is mixed on this. Some supplements may help with blood sugar control, but they won’t provide you with the wide range of nutrients found in whole foods.
The fact that most Americans consume less than half the recommended amount of dietary fibre is concerning. However, increasing your daily intake is easy and will help you achieve a wide range of health benefits. The best way to do this is by eating a wide variety of whole foods. That way, you’ll get all the fibre you need while also benefiting from a high intake of vitamins and minerals.
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