Unlike most parts of plant food, fibre passes through our system undigested. Fibre has the unique ability to bind to water in the intestines, which keeps water inside the colon walls. This keeps waste hydrated so it can pass more quickly and comfortably, easing the common problem of constipation.
Benefits of Fibre:
- Prevents constipation by binding water to waste passing through the body, which softens stool for easier elimination.
- Increases the speed of waste removal by keeping waste hydrated.
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels by slowing the emptying of the stomach.
- Lowers cholesterol levels by sticking to cholesterol and pulling it out of the body.
- Reduces the risk of colon and rectal cancer by maintaining a healthy and efficient environment for waste and toxins to be removed from the body.
- Increases nutrient absorption by encouraging a plant-based nutrient dense diet.
- Provides satiety and a feeling of fullness that leads to eating smaller portions.
- Aids weight loss by helping to remove fats, suppress the appetite and speed up elimination.
Dietary fibre is usually classed as either soluble or insoluble. Both types have their own benefits and both are equally important for healthy digestion.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre
Insoluble Fiber – does not dissolve in water but rather holds moisture inside the intestine and helps to “scrub” the colon walls. Insoluble fibres aid digestive health since they hold water in the colon which helps prevent constipation by speeding up the passage of food and waste. Insoluble fibres are found mainly in whole grains and vegetables. Sources of insoluble fibre include:
- Whole wheat
- Whole grains
- Corn bran
- Brown rice
- Green beans
- Dark leafy greens
- Root vegetable skins
Soluble Fibre – dissolves in water and forms into a thick gel that binds to cholesterol removing it from the digestive system. Generally, insoluble fibres can better prevent constipation by increasing stool bulk with water and speeding up the passage of food. Soluble fibres are more suited to supporting blood sugar balance, cardiovascular health, and feeling full. Soluble fibres attract water and form a gel, which slows the release of carbohydrates and sugars during digestion. For those with diabetes, it is believed slower stomach emptying can help maintain blood sugar levels to benefit insulin sensitivity. Sources of soluble fibre include:
- Oat cereal
- Oat bran
- Dried peas
Unless you are trying to achieve a specific health benefit, like lowering cholesterol, it’s not important to focus on which type of fibre you are taking. Instead focus on eating a diet balanced with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This provides you with a variety of soluble and insoluble fibres and all of the health benefits of plant foods.
Fiber is easy to find, cook, and consume. The best way to add more fiber to your diet is to increase the daily servings of fruits and vegetables to at least five.
Tips to Increase Fibre Intake
- Eat whole fruit instead of fruit juice
- Snack on raw vegetables or dried fruit
- Add legumes, seeds, and nuts into soups, salads, and stews
- Start your day with a bowl of bran, oats or a handful of seeds or nuts
- Replace refined white bread, pasta, and rice with whole-grain products
- Make vegetables the star of your meals
- Have a salad with dinner; and
- Check the number of grams of dietary fibre on the nutrition facts panel of packages
Increasing your intake of plant foods automatically eases digestion, increases nutrition and decreases risks for obesity, constipation, and digestive disorders. I recommend to each of my clients that a healthy plant-based diet full of fibre will do more for their digestive health than any pill, shake, medication, or surgery.
If you have any questions or would like to book your next appointment, reach me at (780) 906-2316.