Guest Post, Sally Marchini, Dietitian
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the importance of including good levels of fibre for good digestive health, so I thought it worthwhile to talk through the different types of fibres and how they benefit us as well as what the evidence says about fibre in relation to diabetes and how much we need topped off with some ideas of how you can increase the fibre in your diet for your improved wellbeing.
It’s important to remember from the start that when following a high fibre diet that you drink plenty of fluids (preferably water) and are physically active to help you gain the greatest benefits.
Fibre and Diabetes
Starting with the glycemic index, we should know that including foods higher in fibre will contribute to lowering the glycemic index of the carbohydrates in the meal. You can read more about this topic here and here.
There’s also lots of evidence that you can read about in the Australian Dietary Guidelines about how fibre reduces fat absorption and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and bowel cancers. All of these are important issues for us with diabetes to consider.
And, of course, if you’re watching your weight, fibre has a lower energy density as it resists digestion so will keep you feeling satisfied for longer too.
Types of Fibre and their roles
Dr Alan Barclay of the Glycemic Index Foundation explains that “dietary fibres come mostly (but not exclusively) from plants and that they are the poorly digested portions that pass through into the large intestine (bowel) and provide much of the bulk in our stools (along with water and bacteria, amongst a few other things).”
There are three main types of dietary fibre: soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. We need a combination of these for good health as they play separate roles.
Soluble fibres attract water and are totally broken down in the large intestine (colon) by good bacteria. They include foods such as whole grains, legumes, psyllium, some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You can read more here.
Insoluble fibres are the ‘bulking’ fibres that aid regular bowel movements. They are also found in similar foods as the soluble fibres, but wheat bran is also a contributor.
Resistant starch is like fibre in that it is starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and travels through to feed the good bacteria in the colon. Research is indicating how beneficial it is for colon health! It’s found primarily in legumes, pearl barley and brown rice as well as cooked and cooled starches (the process forms a crystalline structure around the starches, causing them to resist digestion) such as potato, pasta and rice. The CSIRO has developed a type of this starch which can be found in some specially formulated breads and cereals (including the BarleyMax range by Goodness Superfoods).
How much do we need?
I usually advise clients to read labels (most labels in Australia include fibre these days) and look for the highest fibre level when you’re comparing products. You can read more about label reading in a previous blog here.
As a guide, breads should be greater than 5g/100g at a minimum.
In total we’re aiming for 28g per day for women and 38g per day for men.
How do we get it?
If you aim to include fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains, legumes, nuts, vegetables and fruit in each of your main meals, and follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines, especially in those 3 food groups, you should easily reach your target. Leaving the edible skins on your fruit and vegetables is also an awesome idea.
I couldn’t do better than share this table from the Grains & Legumes Council website with you to demonstrate how to include more fibre.
High fibre recipe ideas
The most basic idea is to modify existing recipes by adding products like legumes and whole grains and nuts and seeds, but here are some high-fibre recipe links that might inspire you to increase your fibre intake.
There’s loads more this like this on the Taste.com.au website, as well as my other favourite internet recipe sites including Allrecipes.com.au, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council website and the Nuts For Life website.
Some other helpful links for more info on fibre
The Australian Healthy Food Guide by dietitian Caitlin Reid
Hoping that’s given you inspiration, understanding and some helpful ideas to include more fibre in you day.
We’d love to hear how you personally get enough in your day, so please share in the comments below.
Wishing you a great day! Sally 🙂
Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.