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Fibre: Nutritional hype or nutritional gold?

You’ve probably heard it’s important to eat fibre, but is this really the case? Why is fibre so important? We’ve examined the facts to determine the truth about fibre.

Various grains, pasta, and beans |

Photo credit: John Block / Blend Images / Getty Images

What is fibre?

To understand if fibre is beneficial, it’s important to first understand what fibre is. First of all, there are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, which is found in oats, lentils, legumes and beans, dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance.

Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive tract relatively intact. Sources of insoluble fibre include whole grains, wheat bran, seeds, husks, dark leafy greens and the skins of root vegetables.

What are the benefits of fibre?

Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps to increase satiety and promote regularity. Foods that contain fibre require more chewing, which helps give your body more time to realize it is no longer hungry. Foods high in fibre also tend to be less energy dense, which means they contain fewer calories per gram than other foods, which can help with weight management. Fibre is also digested more slowly, which helps you feel fuller longer and can prevent overeating.

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Insoluble fibre is important for digestive health. Because insoluble fibre remains mostly undigested as it passes through the body, it adds bulk to the stool, which helps with diarrhea and constipation. A high-fibre diet has also been found to help prevent hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.

The gel-like properties of soluble fibre help to clear LDL — or “bad” cholesterol — from your bloodstream, which can help lower both total cholesterol and LDL levels. This helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

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Fibre, especially soluble fibre, has been shown to be beneficial in preventing and managing diabetes. It is thought that fibre helps to slow down digestion of food, which helps ensure that sugar is released into the bloodstream in a stable and steady manner.

Are there any drawbacks to fibre?

Sometimes fibre can cause symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, constipation and gas. However, these symptoms can be avoided by gradually increasing your intake of fibre rather than moving quickly from a low-fibre to a high-fibre diet. Rarely does excessive fibre intake cause a more serious intestinal blockage. To prevent this, increase your fluid intake along with your fibre intake.

The verdict

The benefits of fibre — including weight management, improved digestive health, lowered cholesterol and prevention of diverticular disease, heart disease and diabetes — are well documented. Because most people consume less than half of the recommended daily fibre intake, gradually adding fibre to your diet can really benefit your health.

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Article sponsored by Kellogg’s All-Bran

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