"Low fat" and "low sodium" diets are all the craze these days. While these dietary considerations are important in day-to-day meal choices, don't forget a stalwart of a healthy diet - fibre. The majority of Canadians are estimated to fall short of the recommended daily intake of between 21 and 38 grams of fibre per day by as much as half. Besides helping to keep you regular (and we all know why that's important), certain types of fibre can help you to lower cholesterol.
Fibre is essentially the "bulk" or "roughage" part of our diet. It includes all parts of plant food that your body can't digest, which pass relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body (unlike other foods which your body absorbs nutrients from).
Fibre is either insoluble or soluble. Sources of insoluble fibre including whole grains and the skins of many fruits and vegetables. Sources of soluble fibre include oats, legumes, brown rice, fruits and green vegetables. Psyllium, a plant native to India, is one of the best sources of soluble fibre. Supplementing your diet with a product that contains both types of fibre, such as Metamucil, can help you reach the daily target.
In general, fibre helps to normalize bowel movements by increasing the weight and size of stool and by softening it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing the risk of constipation. Because insoluble types of fibre do not dissolve in water, they pass through the digestive tract unchanged, increasing stool weight and helping to prevent constipation and improve colon health.
Some types of soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency in the digestive tract. It may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) "bad" cholesterol levels when combined with a low-fat diet. Studies have shown that boosted fibre intake (e.g., psyllium fibre) can help lower LDL cholesterol significantly.
To boost the fibre content of your diet, Canada's Food Guide recommends building your meals and snacks around fibre-rich foods. You need to eat between 5 to 12 servings of grain products per day, and 5 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day to get the recommended daily intake. Introducing more fibre into your diet should be gradual and don't forget to drink plenty of water.
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