Fibre is one of most misunderstood yet widely available and nutritionally medicinal ingredients we can consume.
A diet rich in fibre has a lower content of fat and a higher content of antioxidants, which slow down tageing and prevent diseases like cancer. Fibre helps to improve satiety (you stay full for longer), stabilize blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity, balances hormones like oestrogen in both men and women, and decreases one’s risk of heart disease. By balancing blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity, fibre can help you to maintain a healthy weight and assist in treating and preventing insulin-dependent diseases like PCOS and diabetes.
A diet rich in fibre will positively modify the gut microbiome, resulting in a greater diversity and density of good bacteria. A healthy microbiome promotes a strong immune system and improves the absorption of minerals. Minerals are integral in cellular nutrition, and they help our cells to function more optimally.
When we consume adequate amounts of fibre, digestion is smoother and more regular, hormones are balanced, and we will generally feel more well overall. A lack of dietary fibre can result in a number of symptoms including but not limited to constipation or diarrhoea, bloating, high cholesterol, gut inflammation, hormonal imbalance manifesting as acne, irregular periods, poor libido, low mood and/or anxiety. Although these symptoms can have a variety of causes, consuming enough dietary fibre may help to alleviate or even cure these symptoms.
It is advised to consume 45 to 60 grams of dietary fibre daily for optimal health. There are an abundance of fibre-rich foods but my favourites to prescribe are ground flaxseed, fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, and psyllium. One way to achieve this fibre intake would be to include 2 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp psyllium, 6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, 1 cup of beans, and 2 tbsp of whole grains.
Looking for more specific meal ideas? You may want to consider high-fibre home-made breakfasts including buckwheat, millet, or steel cut organic oatmeal with 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flax, 1 tablespoon psyllium, raw nuts and seeds of choice with fresh berries or chopped apple and cinnamon (which has some additional blood sugar lowering effects). Lunch and dinner can include legumes of choice or whole grains like millet, buckwheat, quinoa or rice along with 2 cups of cooked vegetables and a salad, accompanied by whichever protein and other healthy fats you prefer.
Here are a few commonly available foods and their respective fibre contents:
- 1 cup kidney beans: 15g
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed: 10g
- 2 1/2 tbsp psyllium: 10g
- 1 1/4 cup lentils: 10g
- 3/4 cup navy beans: 10g
- 1/2 cup bran (wheat or oat): 10g
- 1 serving of fruits of vegetables: 2g
- 1 cup oatmeal: 2g
- 1 serving of most whole grains (rices, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, etc.): 2g
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice: 2g
- 10 almonds: 1g
Note: Minimize your consumption of white flour which is found in most breads, pastas, and baked goods, even if these products are enriched with nutrients and fibre. These are not as nutritionally dense nor are they as high in fibre as the whole, fresh foods listed above. Plus they can cause harm long-term.
As always, seek the advice of a licensed naturopathic or medical doctor for recommendations that suit your unique needs.
Kaur, Sat Dharam et. al. The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health, 2005.
Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/fibre.html.