Fibre is an important component of your daily food intake, but it’s one that is often overlooked. Fibre is a carbohydrate that passes through your digestive system without being digested. It is an important part of a healthy diet, as it has a number of benefits, including:
- Controlling blood sugar
- Reducing cholesterol levels
- Increasing the feeling of being full
- Regulating bowel movements
There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fibre is the soft fibre that helps control blood sugar by delaying stomach emptying; this slows down the entry of glucose into your blood stream, and reduces the rise in your post-meal blood sugar levels. Soluble fibre also reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol).
- Insoluble fibre is the bulky fibre that helps to prevent constipation.
Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Unfortunately, many people don't get enough fibre. The table below lists food sources of soluble and insoluble fibre.
|Soluble fibre sources||Insoluble fibre sources|
|Legumes (navy beans, kidney beans, soybeans)||Legumes (beans and peas)|
|Bran, oats, rye and barley||Wheat bran|
|Some fruits, such as figs, avocados, plums, prunes, ripe bananas, apples and pears||Some fruits, such as avocado and unripe bananas|
|Berries, including raspberries, blackberries and strawberries||The skins of some fruits, including kiwis, grapes and tomatoes|
|Certain vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots||Certain vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, zucchini and celery|
|Root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions||Potato skins|
|Nuts (almonds are one of the best sources)||Nuts|
|Flax seeds||Whole grain breads and pastas|
Reading food labels
It’s important to check the Nutrition Facts Table on packaged foods, to ensure that you’re getting the best fibre content possible. According to Health Canada’s Nutrition Labelling program, the following claims can be made about fibre content in foods:
- Foods with at least 2 grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “source” of fibre
- Foods with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “good source” of fibre
- Foods with at least 6 grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “very good” or “excellent” source of fibre
How much fibre do you need?
The Canadian Diabetes Association nutrition guidelines recommend that adults should consume 25 to 50 grams of fibre every day, and incorporate a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Here are some tips to increase your fibre intake:
- Eat oatmeal, bran or another whole grain cereal for breakfast
- Choose whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, crackers and rice
- Add a small handful of almonds or other nuts to a salad
- Use whole grain flour in homemade baked goods
- Add barley, beans and lentils to soups and salads
- Top yogurt or cereal with flax seeds
- Eat the skins and seeds of vegetables and fruit