Fibre is the part of plants that our bodies cannot digest. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

Foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains contain fibre. Animal foods such as meats and eggs have no fibre.

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre?

Soluble fibre is the soft fibre that helps control blood glucose (sugar) and reduces cholesterol. It also helps in managing diarrhea. Soluble fibre is present in oat bran, oatmeal, legumes (dried beans and lentils) and fruits such as apples and strawberries.

Insoluble fibre is the bulky fibre that helps to prevent constipation. It also helps to prevent some types of cancers. It is present in wheat bran, whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.

Why is fibre good for me?

Fibre is important for your overall health. Some of its benefits include:

  • Controlling blood glucose (sugar)
  • Managing blood pressure
  • Reducing blood cholesterol
  • Increasing the feeling of being full
  • Controling weight
  • Regulating bowel movement

Benefit for those with diabetes

Soluble fibre in oat bran, legumes (dried beans of all kinds, peas and lentils), and pectin (from fruit, such as apples) and forms in root vegetables (such as carrots) is considered especially helpful for people with either form of diabetes. Soluble fibre may help control blood sugar by delaying gastric (stomach) emptying, retarding the entry of glucose into the bloodstream and lessening the postprandial (post-meal) rise in blood sugar. It may lessen insulin requirements in those with type 1 diabetes. Because fibre slows the digestion of foods, it can help blunt the sudden spikes in blood glucose (sugar) that may occur after a low-fibre meal. Such blood sugar peaks stimulate the pancreas to pump out more insulin. Some researchers believe that a lifetime of blood glucose (sugar) spikes could contribute to type 2 diabetes, which typically strikes after the age of 40, and more than doubles the risk of stroke and heart disease. The cholesterol-lowering effect of soluble fibres may also help those with diabetes by reducing heart disease risks.

How much fibre do I need?

For adults the Canadian Diabetes Association recommends 25 to 50 grams of fibre every day. Children between the ages of three and 18 need a gradual increase of fibre in their diets, usually calculated by using the child’s age and adding five grams. People of all ages should eat a variety of foods to obtain a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fibre.

How can I get enough?

Good foods with at least two grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “source” of fibre.

Better foods with at least four grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “good source” of fibre.

Best foods with at least six grams of fibre per serving can claim to be a “very good” or “excellent” source of fibre.

Here are some tips to increase your fibre intake:

  • Eat the skins and seeds of vegetables and fruit
  • Choose “whole grain” bread, pasta, cereal, crackers and rice
  • Use whole grain flour in your homemade baked goods
  • Add barley, beans and lentils to soups and salads
  • Use canned beans, chickpeas in salads or in place of meat a few times every week
  • Add ground flax seeds to yogurt, cereal or homemade baked goods
  • Add a small handful of almonds or other nuts to a salad

Note: Increase the amount of fibre slowly and drink plenty of fluids to avoid discomfort and gas.

Average Fibre Content
Fruit
(15 g carbohydrate)
1 medium-size apple with skin,
1 small banana, 1 cup strawberries
2 g
Vegetables
(less than 5 g carbohydrate)
1 cup lettuce, ½ cup tomatoes,
½ cup green beans
1-2 g
Grain products, low fibre
(about 15 g carbohydrate)
1 slice white bread,
1 white hamburger bun,
½ white pita (6”)
1 g
Grain products, high fibre
(about 15 g carbohydrate)
1 slice whole wheat bread,
¾ cup hot cereals,
½ cup whole wheat pasta
3 g
Meat and alternatives
(about 0 g carbohydrate)
3 oz cooked skinless chicken breast (or most meats) 0 g
Meat alternatives
(about 15 g carbohydrate)
1 cup legumes
(kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas)
10 g

Simple changes can increase the amount of fibre in your diet

The low and high fibre meals look very similar but are very different in the amount of fibre. Simple changes to your food choices can increase the amount of fibre in your diet.

Low Fibre Diet Fibre (g) Fibre (g) High Fibre Diet
Breakfast Breakfast
1 cup Corn Flakes 0.7 6.1 1 cup Corn Bran
1 cup low fat milk 0.0 0.0 1 cup low fat milk
1 boiled egg 0.0 0.0 1 boiled egg
1 slice white toast 0.9 3.2 1 slice whole grain toast
1 small banana 1.8 2.3 1 medium orange
Lunch Lunch
1 cup chicken noodle soup 0.4 4.5 1 cup split pea soup
Turkey sandwich: 2 slices white bread, turkey, mustard 1.6 5.8 Turkey sandwich: 2 slices whole grain bread, turkey, lettuce, mustard
½ cup tomato slices 1.2 1.2 ½ cup tomato slices
1 slice cheese 0.0 0.0 1 slice cheese
1 apple 2,6 2.6 1 apple
2.9 10 baby carrots1
Snack Snack
¼ cup of almonds 4.1 4.1 ¼ cup of almonds
3 arrowroot cookies 0.3 4.2 1 small pear
Supper Supper
2 ½ oz. baked salmon 0.0 0.0 2 ½ oz. baked salmon
1 cup white rice 1.7 2.8 1 cup quinoa
1 cup green beans 3.2 3.2 1 cup green beans
1 cup lettuce salad and dressing 1.2 0.7 1 cup spinach salad
1 cup low-fat milk 0.0 0.9 with ½ cup of cauliflower and
2.8 ¼ cup chickpeas and dressing
0.0 1 cup low-fat milk
Bedtime snack Bedtime snack
3/4 cup plan yogurt 0.0 0.0 3/4 cup plain yogurt
½ cup of blueberries 2.0 2.0 ½ cup of blueberries
TOTAL FIBRE 21.7 48.4 TOTAL FIBRE
TOTAL ENERGY (Calories) 1910 1972 TOTAL ENERGY (Calories)

1 Information on fibre content taken from the Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) 2010