Dietary Fibre

Fibre provides diabetics with many benefits.

Dietary Fibre

For people with diabetes, the recommended intake of dietary fibre is higher – from 30 g to 50 g per day, with at less a third coming from soluble fibre.

Fibre provides diabetics with many benefits:

  • It delays the absorption of carbohydrates, so blood glucose levels rise less after a meal.
  • It helps reduce bad cholesterol in the blood, thereby helping to prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • It contributes to healthy weight management due to its satiating effect (full feeling).
  • It stimulates the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria (prebiotic effect).
  • It prevents constipation by promoting bowel regularity.

Most Quebeckers don’t get enough dietary fibre (17 grams of fibre on average, when they need from 20 g to 40 g daily).

Yet, fibre is in all our food and is easy to incorporate into your diet if you choose the right foods.

Two types of fibre

There are two types of dietary fibre: insoluble and soluble. Each type of fibre plays a different role in the body. It is important to note that not all types of fibre have an impact on blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre acts like little sponges in the intestines. By swelling up with water, it increases stool volume and helps regulate bowel function. Because it slows digestion, it helps you feel full (the satiating effect), which in turn contributes to appetite and weight control.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre forms a gel when mixed with water and can help lower the level of cholesterol in the blood. Furthermore, it acts like a filter in the intestines, slowing the absorption of carbohydrates. Note: you must eat a very large amount of soluble fibre every day to see any impact on blood glucose (sugar) control.

Primary sources of fibre

Insoluble fibre Soluble fibre
Cereals and wheat bran
Whole-grain foods
Vegetables and fruit
Nuts and seeds
Legumes and pulses (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
Psyllium and enriched cereals (e.g.: Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds®)
Cereals and oat bran
Legumes and pulses
Fruits high in pectin (apple, orange, grapefruit, strawberrie, pear, etc.)
Vegetables (eggplant, okra, asparagus, green beans and green peas, Brussel sprouts, carrots, etc.)
BarleyFlaxseeds, chia seeds

New types of fibre, classified by Health Canada as “novel fibre,” are also being added to many food products today. They don’t have the same nutrient value as the natural fibre in food but they offer some advantages, primarily their prebiotic effect and effect on bowel regularity.

Some tips to help you add fibre to your diet

  • Add wheat bran, oat bran or psyllium (All-Bran Buds®) to your breakfast cereal, yogurt and homemade muffins.
  • Add fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts or seeds to your breakfast cereal.
  • Eat fresh fruit with its peel instead of fruit juice.
  • Keep a stock of frozen vegetables and fruit so you always have them in a pinch.
  • Replace half the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour in your cookie, muffin and cake recipes.
  • Use raw vegetables and fruit slices as snacks or with yogurt-based dips.
  • Add almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or flax seeds to salads, yogurt or make a snack of them. (Note: nuts are high in fat and calories. Eat them in moderation: 1 to 2 tablespoons or 15 to 30 ml.)
  • Incorporate legumes in your diet: whole, puréed, in chili, as humus, in salads or and soups. Replace some of the meat in your spaghetti sauce, shepherd’s pie (pâté chinois) and meat loaf with legumes (beans, lentils, etc.).
  • Choose whole-grain breakfast cereals and breads.
  • Try such whole grains as amaranth, oats, spelt, millet, quinoa, brown or wild rice, triticale and barley.

Increase your consumption of fibre progressively to give your digestive tract time to adapt, and don’t forget to stay well hydrated all day to ensure that the fibre can do its job properly.

Low-fibre vs. high-fibre menu

Compare these two menus which show how simple it is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet.

 

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Dietitians

June 2014 (updated on July 2018)

©All rights reserved Diabetes Quebec

Sources:

Sievenpiper J, Chan C, Dworatzek P et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Nutrition Therapy. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S64-S79.

Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2009). La consommation alimentaire et les apports nutritionnels des adultes québécois [Online], https://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/931_RapportNutritionAdultes.pdf (Web page consulted on July 6, 2018).

Santé Canada (2005). Apports nutritionnels de référence: Valeurs de référence relatives aux macronutriments [Online], https://www.canada.ca/fr/sante-canada/services/aliments-nutrition/saine-alimentation/apports-nutritionnels-reference/tableaux/valeurs-reference-relatives-macronutriments-tableaux-apports-nutritionnels-reference-2005.html Web page consulted on July 6, 2018).

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New Dietary Fibre

Unlike many types of natural fibre found in foods, these new fibres do not appear to have a positive impact on blood glucose (sugar) control.

Have you ever noticed these words on the ingredient list of products at the grocery store: inulin, extracted from oat hulls, polydextrose? Today, these ingredients are added as an extra source of fibre in many food products.

Do these new types of added fibre have the same nutrient value as fibre that is naturally present? No, apparently they do not. These new types of fibre do, however, offer several advantages, primarily their prebiotic [j1] effect, and their effect on bowel regularity.

On the other hand, none seems to offer any glycemic-control benefits, contrary to the other types of fibre found naturally in foods and that have proven their efficacy in this regard. The same applies to their satiating effect and impact on blood cholesterol, which appears unlikely as far as we know.

Benefits

Since Health Canada recently approved these new types of dietary fibre – which it classifies as “novel fibre” – some of their benefits have been called into question. Consult this table which presents some of the novel fibre most often found in grocery-store products and their potential health benefits.

 

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Dietitians

June 2014 (updated on July 2018)

©All rights reserved Diabetes Quebec

References:

Health Canada. (2010) Proposed Policy: Definition and Energy Value for Dietary Fibre [Online]. Founded at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consult/fibre-fibres/consul-fibre-fibres-eng.php (Web page consulted April 10, 2014.)

Mudgil, D. and Barak, S., (2013) “Composition, properties and health benefits of indigestible carbohydrate polymers as dietary fiber: a review,” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Vol. 61, pp.1–6.

Li, C. and Uppal, M., (2010) “Canadian Diabetes Association National Nutrition Committee Clinical Update on Dietary Fibre in Diabetes: Food Sources to Physiological Effects (review),” Canadian Journal of Diabetes, vol. 34, pp.355-361.

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