What is fibre?
Dietary fibre, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the portion of plant foods that your body doesn’t digest or absorb. Fibre helps promote regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Additionally, fibre has a number of other health benefits.
Types of fibre
Fibre comes in two broad types — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre absorbs water as it pushes through your digestive system, where it is fermented by bacteria. Soluble fibre becomes gelatinous along the way, while insoluble doesn’t change form in your body. Both soluble and insoluble fibre are found in plant foods, but not in equal proportions.
Benefits of fibre
Insoluble fibre: Insoluble fibre moves bulk through your digestive tract, softening the stool and speeding up the elimination of waste through the colon. It also controls pH levels in the intestines, preventing your body from producing substances that can lead to colorectal cancer.
Soluble fibre: Soluble fibre binds with fatty acids as it goes through the digestive tract. These short-chain fatty acids provide energy to your body, and also may help prevent cancer. Soluble fibre also helps slow down the rate in which sugar is absorbed by the body, regulating your sugar intake — which is essential for those with diabetes. Soluble fibre also helps to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and excess blood fats, protecting against heart disease.
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Sources of fibre
Insoluble fibre is found in dark green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, fruit skins, whole wheat, wheat bran, corn bran, nuts and seeds. Soluble fibre is found in raw fruits such as apples, grapes, oranges and prunes, and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach and zucchini. Additionally, barley, oats, brown rice, whole wheat products, legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and pinto beans, for example), potatoes and some seeds contain soluble fibre.
Because fibre-rich foods fill you up and because fibre aids in digestion, fibre consumption can help you maintain or even lose weight.
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How much fibre?
So how much fibre do you need? According to the current Canadian nutrition guidelines, healthy adults should consume at least 26 grams of fibre each day — ideally, 26 to 35 grams. People with diabetes should aim for higher amounts, closer to 50 grams daily. Unfortunately, the average Canadian currently consumes only 4.5 to 11 grams each day. Many dietitians recommend your ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber be 3:1 for optimal health benefits.
Watch: How to make a healthy brown rice breakfast
Bethenny Frankel teaches you how to make an easy and healthy breakfast.