As a nutritionist, fibre is the first thing I assess when looking at a nutrition facts label. Fibre is so important because it controls the way the nutrients in our food are distributed in the body. Fibre is also the regulator of bowel health and all chronic diseases can be traced back to poor bowel health. This can easily be a confusing topic, so lets break down the basics.
What is fibre?
Fibre is the part of our food that is not digestible. Mainly, this means the cellulose and hemicellulose from the cell walls of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. Fibre is exclusively a plant nutrient: increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables increases your fibre intake. Fibre does not have any specific nutritional value since it’s not actually broken down by digestion. Instead, it’s role is in the healthy passage of food through the digestive tract, allowing for optimal digestion, nutrient assimilation, and also the proper removal of toxins from the system.
Nutrition facts label
The fibre content of a packaged food item is found under the “CARBOHYDRATES” heading. When looking at the label, you want to look for a HIGH fibre content and a LOW sugar content. Ideally, the ratio should be 1:1 or higher in favour of fibre.
Types of fibre
There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre absorbs water from it’s surroundings and turns into a gel. This gel is great for absorbing toxins and waste from the colon. Insoluble fibre does not break down in water and provides bulk to the stool. This strengthens and tones the muscles of the colon while sweeping the walls of the bowel clean.
On it’s own, soluble fibre can suck up too much water, dehydrating the colon. Be wary of store bought fibre that only contains Psyllium, like Metamucil. Psyllium is a purely soluble fibre and may do more harm than good in the long run. A combination of soluble and insoluble is ideal. Luckily, this combination is easily found in nature.
Without a proper fibre source, the small intestine absorbs sugars from our meals too quickly. This quick influx of blood sugar is dangerous so the body compensates by pumping out insulin. Insulin guides the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it can be utilized.
The issue arises when the blood sugar level then drops below what is normal. The influx of sugar causes a large release of insulin, which then overcompensates for the high sugar levels and causes too much sugar to be taken up by the cells. This leaves lower than normal sugar in the blood stream. This is called hypoglycaemia and results in light headedness, fogginess, and hunger (even if you just ate).
This up and down fluctuation of blood sugar levels is known as dysglycemia. Dysglycemia is known to be a contributor to mental illnesses such as depression, ADHD and even bi-polar disorder. This process is also known as “pre-diabetes” and can lead to development of diabetes down the line.
Thinking about your meals in terms of sugar and fibre content is important. Avoiding any added sugars is the number one way to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance. Nature perfectly packages natural sugar in fibre when you consume whole fruits or vegetables.
Focus on whole foods
The risk of developing chronic health disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes is lowest when the diet is focused on whole plant foods. Studies have shown that consuming 10-25g of soluble fibre daily lowers cholesterol by 18%. This is because of fibre’s ability to regulate the absorption and distribution of dietary nutrients. Soluble fibre forms a gel that traps substances related to high cholesterol and reduces the absorption into the blood stream.
Eating mindfully with a focus on increasing your fibre intake will also help with weight loss. Fibre helps to fill you up and releases the nutrients from a meal slower, keeping you fuller longer. Fibre also triggers the satiety hormone CCK that tells your brain you are no longer hungry. Because fibre holds onto the nutrients from your meal, it helps to reduce the absorption of calories from the food you eat. For every gram of fibre eaten, the absorption of ~7 calories is eliminated.
Fibre is a powerful prebiotic and helps to maintain the health of your colon microbiome. The bacteria living in your gut are responsible for the manufacture of several B vitamins and vitamin K. Keeping them happy and well fed is important to ensure the good guys proliferate and keep the bad guys and yeast at bay.
Increasing your consumption of whole plant based foods is the best way to increase your fibre intake. You can enhance the fibre content of your food by adding fibre dense foods to meals that might be lacking in fibre. Flaxseeds and hemp seeds are both great sources.
You can also supplement your diet by using a product like Renew Life’s Fibre Smart. This product is flax based and is formulated to provide 50% soluble and 50% insoluble fibre. It is designed for daily use and this 50/50 formula ensures proper bowel function and top notch bowel health.
For best health, be conscious of your fibre intake. A high fibre diet helps to regulate the bowels and protects from chronic disease. Fibre also regulates the release of nutrients from your foods, protecting you from spikes in blood sugar and cholesterol. The best way to incorporate fibre is to increase your intake of whole plant based foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. To give yourself an extra boost in daily intake, you can supplement with a product like Fibre Smart that is designed to ensure proper bowel function and health.
Last modified: September 13, 2017