First of all, a question you may be asking yourself is 'What is fibre?'
As I'm sure all of you smart cookies may have deduced from the first picture, fibre is actually a type of carbohydrate. There are several different types of carbohydrates and fibre just happens to be one of them - the special thing about it is that we can't digest it. That's right, you should eat it even though your body can't digest it.
"Why?" you may ask.
Again, great question. Loving your curiosity!
Well fibre has a ton of benefits including helping keep you 'regular,' reducing 'bad' cholesterol, and reducing blood glucose levels / insulin levels after eating. Certain types of fibre may also protect against colon cancer. My favorite thing about fibre though? It keeps you FULL! Fibre has this amazing ability to slow down the digestive process and help keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Due to this great quality, fibre has been shown to help people manage their weight in a healthy way - better than any diet pill or supplement if you ask me!
'OK, so fibre is awesome. I'm convinced. Where can I get a hold of some of this stuff!'
Good news! Fibre is found in many different foods. Only plant-based foods though, you won't find any fibre in your chicken breast, steak or cheese unfortunately. There are two main types of fibre you will find in your favorite foods, soluble and insoluble fibre. For those of us who cringed during high school chemistry and may have missed the class on solubility, the basic difference is this; soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel that is responsible for slowing down the movement of food through our intestines (which keeps us from getting hungry right after we eat), preventing a large surge of glucose or sugar from entering our bloodstream too quickly, and lowering cholesterol. On the other hand, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water but instead absorbs it and swells up making it famous for relieving constipation and is even believed to help prevent colon cancer!
Another type of fibre is functional fibre or sometimes called novel fibre, which is extracted or manufactured from plants and is often added into foods during processing to increase the fibre content. Although words like fructooligosaccharide, oligofructose, inulin, and psyllium may sound like scary chemical names, they actually indicate that functional fibre may have been added into some of your favorite foods! Although WHITTY NUTRITION recommends getting your fibre primarily from natural and whole food sources such as fruits, vegetables, and beans/lentils, it is great to see the food industry attempting to help us reach our fibre goals!
So what is your fibre goal? The chart below summarizes how much fibre you should aim to get everyday based on your sex and age.
Here is a list of some foods you can add or increase in your diet to help you get more fibre everyday!
So now what? Often people get all this information about a nutrition topic and they read it, they understand it, and then they go 'OK, now what?' Even I find myself at the grocery store at times going "How much fibre should I be looking for again?' To make things easier, here are a few tips and a downloadable card that you can throw in your purse or wallet and take grocery shopping with you. I often keep basic information in a little card holder or book with me that I can refer to while I'm out shopping. In today's busy world we can't always remember everything off the top of our head so let WHITTY NUTRITION make nutritious shopping a bit easier! Here's what the card looks like when it's printed. Throw it in your purse or wallet as a reminder when you're out shopping and write down some of your favorite fibre-rich foods on the back to make it easier for future shopping trips!
TIP # 2 - Aim for foods to have more than 2 grams of fibre per serving. Ideally any cereals, granola bars, breads, or pasta should have 3 - 4 grams per serving. Check the label! Fibre is always listed!
TIP # 3 - Look for the terms "whole grain" or "whole wheat" in the ingredient list to make sure you are getting the benefits of all parts of the grain. Words like "wheat flour," "stoneground," and "enriched flour" do NOT mean the food has the benefits of a whole grain.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE WHITTY NUTRITION FIBRE CHEAT SHEET!
So, hopefully you can see there are a lot of ways to increase fibre in your diet without having to resort to your grandpa's metamucil! One final reminder is that if you currently don't consume a lot of fibre and are planning to increase your intake, do so SLOWLY and drink lots of water in the process! This will prevent any unflattering and unwanted side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Your body needs time to learn how to use that Fantastic Fibre! And finally, now that you know more than you ever thought you wanted to know about fibre, go forth and fill up!
Other resources used in the development of this blog post:
Mahan, L. (2008). Krause's food & nutrition therapy (12th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Saunders/Elsevier
Pepsico Canada. (2014, September 1). Focus on fibre: New policy and the latest science. Health & Wellness, 1-4.
Pepsico Canada. (2014, September 1). The Canadian Fibre Gap (J. Miller Jones, Ed.). For Your Practice, 1-2.