Nutrition Game Changer: Fibre

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Fibre. It’s not exactly the sexiest topic. But it actually is a NGC* if you want to love your body. Which really is sexy, isn’t it? It’s recommended that adults eat 25 – 38 grams of fibre each day. But most Canadians don’t get nearly enough (usually only half the recommendation). Here’s why you will want to get enough and what foods to find it in. And, a couple of words of warning when it comes to increasing your intake.

Why You Want Fibre:

There are two main reasons why it's is a NGC: 1) steady blood sugar; 2) large, regular bowel movements.

Fibre helps to lower blood cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels steady. Yes, these both help prevent and manage heart health and diabetes. But there’s also a more immediate reason why you want this. Steady blood sugar means consistent energy levels. No more roller coasters of highs, followed by crashing lows. This means no “hangry” feelings and less cravings for junk food. It means that fibre fills you up and helps you stay feeling full for longer.

Fibre also helps keep your bowels regular and may protect against colon cancer. It binds bile secreted by your liver. Large, easy to pass, bowl movements remove toxins and waste from your body. You don’t want tiny little pellets. In other words, yes, it's the original “detox”. We’re learning more about the role of having a healthy microflora in our digestive tracts. Fibre is considered a “pre-biotic” in that it creates an environment that supports the healthy bacteria.

Words of Warning:

I have two important words of warning when it comes to increasing the amount you eat:

  1. Drink lots of water! Lots of fibre without fluids will have the opposite effect of what you want (namely: constipation). I recommend that we women drink 2.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day. Men: drink 3.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day.
  2. Increase your intake slowly. Think of fibre like exercise for your digestive tract. If you’ve been eating highly processed foods with little fibre, your digestive tract has been a couch potato. Increase your fibre slowly and steadily. Think of it like an exercise training regimen. Going too fast too soon will result in constipation.

Foods to Eat:

A good general rule is that foods that need lots of chewing contain lots of fibre. The first step in digesting fibre is a thorough chewing (see warning #2 above). If you don’t have to do much chewing of a food, it’s a sign that the fibre has been removed by machines (i.e. processing). Of course there are exceptions to this, but it’s a good general rule when looking for fibre-rich foods.

Great sources of fibre are:

  • Vegetable and fruit. Eat 7 servings a day. As often as possible, eat the peels of your veggies and fruit – there’s lots of fibre in those peels. Juice, including fresh press juice, doesn’t have the same fibre as eating the whole vegetable/ fruit.
  • Pulses: beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Intact whole grains. Examples include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, and pot barley. Look for breads that are heavy when you lift the loaf and need lots of chewing. Light, fluffy “whole wheat” bread really isn’t an intact whole grain. There are lots of bakeries and brands out there making bread from intact whole grains. One brand that’s widely available is Silver Hills.

The best way to get fibre is to eat foods closest to the way nature made them. Be wary of “high fibre” or “fibre added” foods that are highly processed (e.g. many “healthy” bars, some yogurt) because it hasn’t been scientifically proven that adding fibre to highly refined foods has the same results in our bodies as eating the fibre that was present when mother nature made the food.

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.