In the 1800s, Sylvester Graham traveled up and down the East Coast, praising the virtues of fibre - leaving behind the legendary graham cracker! Unfortunately, in today’s market the graham cracker does not count as a source of fibre, but scientific evidence supports this early promotion of fibre as part of a healthy diet. If you’re like most Canadians, you’re probably not getting enough fibre each day. It’s estimated that most people need twice as much as they’re getting (25g each day).
Fibres can be classified as either soluble or insoluble based on their properties. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fibre does not. Soluble fibre, aka soft fibre, helps regulate blood sugar, lowers blood cholesterol levels, and delays gastric emptying, which makes you feel full. Sources include: oat bran, oatmeal, legumes, brown rice, barley and pectin rich fruits (such as apples, strawberries, and citric fruit). Pectin forms a gel in your intestines, which directly delays gastric emptying – imagine Jello in your digestive system.
Insoluble fibre, aka roughage, helps prevent constipation, bowel problems and may reduce the risk of bowel cancers (colon). Because this fibre does not dissolve in water it passes through the intestines quickly and will also speed up the passage of food and waste. Sources include: wheat bran, flax and whole grain breads and cereals. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source.
Are you sold yet on fibre?
If not, here are some helpful tips for eating more fibre:
(i) Start your day off right by eating a cereal that is high in fibre (at least 4 grams per serving) but no more than 5 or 6 grams of sugar – sorry!
(ii) Eat at least one vegetarian meal a week, which usually means beans will be your meat alternative. Baked beans, kidney beans, or red lentils contain 6 grams of fibre per serving!
(iii) Increase the amount of vegetables and fruit you eat.
(iv) Choose whole grains.
(v) Eat slowly and give your system time to adjust. As you increase fibre, drink more fluids!
Thanks Mr. Graham for all your hard work! S’more anyone?
Image courtesy of Christopher S. Penn