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It is well known that good health starts with eating a variety of foods. It is important to combine sugars, fats, and proteins, but don’t forget to also include sources of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre benefits our body in many ways. Apart from promoting regularity, it assures us of long-term health by decreasing the absorption of cholesterol, controlling glycemia (sugar levels in the blood), and by reducing the risk of certain cancers.
Fibre refers to the parts of plant foods that we cannot digest. There are two categories: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre acts at two levels: In the small intestine and in the large intestine. When soluble fibre reaches the small intestine, it acts like a magnet that food residue sticks to and is eventually evacuated from the body. In the large intestine, soluble fibre is more or less destroyed by intestinal bacteria. Its role in the diet is to reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body and regulate blood sugars. Soluble fibre is found in large amounts in oat bran, legumes, various cracked grains, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fibre passes through our digestive tract with little alteration from intestinal bacteria. They are then evacuated with the feces. Insoluble fibre provides bulk, which helps the descent of foods in the digestive tract. In this way, they serve to maintain bowel regularity. We find insoluble fibre in many foods including wheat bran, whole grain breads and cereals, and many fruits and vegetables such as pears and broccoli.
Once we have decided to include fibre in our diet, it is preferable to start with small quantities and add gradually to the recommended 30 g a day. Moreover, it is recommended that we drink plenty of water, six to eight large glasses a day.
Don’t hesitate to ask advise from your pharmacist. He or she can help you to better understand the different dietary fibre sources available and the best way to introduce them into your diet.