The soluble type works on cholesterol and sugar levels in your blood. Insoluble fibre helps move digested food through your body. Canada’s Food Guide will coach you on good food sources.
With the start of every new year comes promises that we make to ourselves to improve our own health, usually by losing weight, eating more healthy foods or exercising more. We try to lower our caloric intake, avoid sweets, eat less fat, cut down on salt… but what if we added something into our diet to improve our health?
Research has shown that most people’s diets are lacking in fibre, yet fibre has many important roles in health. When most people think of dietary fibre, they associate it with its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. However, foods that contain fibre can also provide other health benefits such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
There are two common types of fibre. Soluble fibre is the type that dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help to lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It is commonly found in some vegetables, fruit and legumes. Insoluble fibre helps to move the food you have digested through your body, increases stool bulk and also helps in the management of constipation or irregular bowel movements. Insoluble fibre is found in some vegetables, fruit, whole grains and wheat bran.
With aging, there appears to be an increasing problem with constipation. This can have many different causes including a diet that is low in fibre, inadequate fluid intake, limited daily physical activity, changes in your daily routine (such as travelling) or it may be a side effect from some medications or supplements such as iron or calcium carbonate.
While it is commonly thought that eating cheese is a cause of constipation research has shown that this is really not the case. In fact, common constipation is not due to any specific food. Sometimes chronic constipation is a signal of other health problems so it is important that you discuss this with your doctor.
How much fibre should you eat? The current recommendation is that men over 50 years old should aim for 30 grams per day, while women over 50 should aim for 21 grams per day. It’s important to add fibre to your diet gradually. It is also important that you also increase your fluid intake and include regular daily activity to prevent constipation.
There are many different ways to increase your fibre intake, but using the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide for fruit, vegetables and grain products is a great place to start. There are also lists available on a variety of websites that can help you determine the amount of fibre in various foods. You can find more information about dietary fibre and other nutrition-related matters on the Dietitians of Canada website, www.dietitians.ca.
Wendy Borody is a clinical dietitian at Victoria General Hospital’s Mature Women’s Centre. To support patient care at the Vic, please contact Victoria General Hospital Foundation at 204-477-3513 or online at www.thevicfoundation.ca.