* Psyllium is a grain that contains eight times more soluble fibre than oat bran. It is grown in India and has been used safely in bulk fibre supplements such as Metamucil™ for decades. Psyllium is available in breakfast cereal where it is combined with other grains, providing an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibre.
Fibre is an important component of food that really gives 'the best bang for your buck.' Fibre-rich foods are generally not expensive, yet offer great health benefits. These benefits include better blood glucose control, lower LDL cholesterol, bowel regularity, help with some bowel problems, and possible reduction of certain cancers. Foods high in fibre are also an excellent source of a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants) essential for the best health.
Dietary fibre is considered a carbohydrate. It is a group of materials, including pectins, gums, mucilages and cellulose, that humans are unable to digest. It is found only in plants. Dietary fibre is divided into two types depending on whether or not it is soluble in water. The two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, have different roles in keeping people healthy.
Eating enough insoluble fibre is associated with a healthy gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines). Soluble fibre has been shown to help control blood glucose levels and to reduce blood cholesterol which also lowers the risk of heart disease. Most foods containing fibre have a mix of the two types, but some foods are especially rich in one or the other.
A recent focus for many people with diabetes has been to choose more foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a system of ranking foods based on their overall effect on blood glucose levels. Eating a food with a low GI rating will cause a small rise in blood glucose, while a food with a high GI rating will produce a larger increase. Foods rich in soluble fibre generally have a low GI rating (that’s good!) and are therefore helpful in controlling diabetes.
Soluble fibre may also help the body to be more sensitive to insulin. If eating foods high in soluble fibre results in a smaller rise in blood glucose, then the pancreas will be able to produce less insulin. This is helpful since constantly high levels of insulin in the blood are linked to weight gain, increased blood fats and blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Resistance to insulin is a condition known as Syndrome X. Following a diet high in soluble fibre from an early age may help prevent the development of Syndrome X. This is especially true for those who have a family history of Type II diabetes.
It is also possible that when people with well-controlled Type I diabetes eat foods high in soluble fibre, they may be able to decrease their dose of insulin and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
For the best health it is recommended that 25 to 35 grams of fibre be eaten each day. Many people feel they are eating a high fibre diet. However, according to Health Canada, the average adult Canadian eats only 10 to 15 grams of fibre daily. People with diabetes should pay special attention to their fibre intake as foods rich in soluble fibre help control blood glucose levels and lower LDL cholesterol.
Remember that fibre is only found in foods of plant origin. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, which recommends a wide variety of whole grain products, vegetables and fruit, can be the basis of a high fibre eating plan.
It’s hard to talk about increasing dietary fibre without mentioning gas. Extra gas and stomach bloating are common when you first start eating more fibre. To reduce these uncomfortable side effects, be sure to slowly increase the frequency and portion size of high fibre foods you eat. It is also very important to drink more fluids, especially water, when increasing your fibre intake. Another tip is to drain and thoroughly rinse canned beans, chick peas or lentils. Regular exercise, such as walking, also lessens the gastrointestinal side effects of eating more fibre.
When counting carbohydrate for insulin adjustment and blood glucose management, remember that although dietary fibre is considered as a source of carbohydrate, it is not digested. Therefore, it is not changed into glucose or absorbed into your bloodstream like starches and sugars. When reading food labels, subtract the grams of dietary fibre from the total grams of carbohydrate in the serving of food to find out the actual grams of carbohydrate that will need insulin.
For instance, a high fibre breakfast cereal may contain 18 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of dietary fibre per serving. By subtracting the grams of dietary fibre from the grams of total carbohydrate you find that there are in fact 14 grams of carbohydrate that will be changed into glucose in your body and will require insulin to manage your blood glucose level.
5 dried apricots or prunes
1 large apple
1 pear (with skin)
1 dozen strawberries
4 Fig Newtons™
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
4 spears raw broccoli
1⁄4 cup almonds
1⁄4 cup soynuts
1⁄2 cup shredded wheat cereal
1⁄2 cup raspberries
1 medium baked potato with skin
2 rye crisp crackers
1⁄3 cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 whole wheat pita with hummus
3 cups popped corn
1 tablespoon of cereal containing psyllium
Here are some practical tips for increasing your fibre intake every day.
Dietary fibre adds wonderful flavour and texture to the foods you eat, as well as promoting good health and blood glucose management. Be adventurous and find new ways to 'be up on fibre!'