Are you eating enough fibre every day?

Morning in Maui (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Morning in Maui (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Last time I wrote about this subject was on April 6, 2010 (Fibre, Flatulence and Weight Loss Diet). It is about time we review the subject. Recently, the Lancet medical journal (January 10, 2019) published an article titled “Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses”.

After analysing 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results are in and have been published in the Lancet medical journal.

“The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it,” says one of the researchers involved in the Lancet article, Prof John Cummings, speaking to BBC News.

There used to be a view that fibre didn’t do much at all – that the human body could not digest it and it just sailed through.

But fibre makes us feel full and affects the way fat is absorbed in the small intestine – and things really become interesting in the large intestines, when your gut bacteria get to have their dinner. The large intestine is home to billions of bacteria – and fibre is their food.

“We have this organ (colon) set up to digest fibre, which a lot of people just don’t use very much,” says Prof Cummings.

Dietary fibre is well known for stopping constipation – but its health benefits are much broader than that. Only about 10 per cent of the population eat adequate amount of fibre.

Health Canada says Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams of fibre per day. On average, women consume about 17g and men 21g a day. We need to increase that. Fibre is cheap and widely available in the supermarket.

Fibre is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in plant foods. It is an important part of a healthy diet and plays many roles in the body. Fibre helps bowel move regularly, lower blood cholesterol levels, makes you feel full longer and helps you lose weight.

Is it difficult to find dietary fibre in the market?

Not really. Dietary fibre is found in fruits, legumes such as dried beans, lentils, peas, and soybeans. The list does not end there. Nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole grains such as whole grain breads, cereals, crackers and pasta, brown rice, barley and oats, are available in all grocery stores.

The more fibre you eat, the more gas you produce. There is not much you can do about it except look over your shoulder and let it out. Is that embarrassing? May be. Look at the advantages. You avoid constipation. Constipation leads to hemorrhoids, lazy bowel, irritable bowel syndrome and anal fissures. What would you prefer?

Dietary fibre has been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol), reduces the absorption of sugar, reduces sugar response after eating, normalizes blood lipid levels and, once fermented in the colon, produces by-products which are healthy for you. Regular bowels may prevent colon cancer and diverticulosis. More important, it makes you feel better.

Finally, you should avoid dietary regimes that recommend very low-carbohydrate diets. A low-carb diet limits carbohydrate like grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, seeds and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat.

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