And yes, fibre is great for maintaining regular bowel movements, but as Dr. Robert Lustig states, in his book Fat Chance, fibre “is the most misunderstood weapon in our nutritional arsenal.”
Our fast and processed North American diet is very low in fibre. Because fibre refers to the indigestible part of plant foods, most food manufacturers refine it right out. The average Canadian eats about 12-14 grams a day or about half the fibre needed. Compare this with our ancestors who ate about 100 grams of fibre a day from roots, berries, leaves and other plants.
Science and research is showing, it was due in part to the fibre, that kept our ancestors so healthy and free from the metabolic conditions we are now experiencing.
Fibre is not classified as an essential nutrient because you don’t digest, absorb it or use it for energy. You consume it in a variety of foods, it travels through your mouth, stomach, digestive system, and comes out the other end with very little change. And so fibre is often considered a waste product.
But it’s far from a waste or unnecessary. Fibre is a valuable nutrient that Dr. Mark Hyman says, “…can actually prevent obesity and all the chronic disease of aging.”
How does fibre do this? Well it’s actually fibre’s indigestible nature that makes it so amazing. Let’s take at look at the two forms:
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and is found in foods like cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts. It breaks down into into a gelatinous substance and helps to slow down digestion which keeps you feeling full longer and so can help to control weight.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve and is found in dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, and helps add bulk to your stool. This speeds up and improves the elimination process.
The list of health benefits related to fibre is lengthy. Some of the conditions fibre can help improve are:
- Blood sugar challenges
- Cardiovascular disease
- Risk for stroke
- Appetite control
- Weight loss
- Skin health
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gallstones and kidney stones
I’m sure you’ve heard the best way to boost your fibre intake and reap all these benefits is to eat more bran, whole grains and cereals. Sound familiar?
Well there are actually some sources of better quality and higher quality fibre with no downsides like there are from grains and highly processed cereals.
To increase your fibre intake, to the recommended 30 to 50 grams every day, try these top sources:
- Flax and chia seeds
- Blackberries and raspberries
- Brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli and peas
- Collards, mustard and turnip greens
- Parsnips, carrots, squash
- Almonds, pecans, and walnuts
- Split peas, lentils, black and lima beans
* This post was originally published in the Herald Community on October 21, 2014