Fabulous Fibre: Foods That Create Fullness and Fight Fat

EDAMAME HUMMUS

1890 could be called “the year the human diet started to go downhill”. That was the year that a new milling technique which removed fibre from whole grains to produce white flour swept the country. Although celebrated as progress, the milling technique displaced beneficial nutrients and created refined carbohydrates which were widely consumed in the ‘modern’ diet, contributing to an increased risk of many inflammatory diseases. From diabetes to heart disease to bowel disease, we can usually trace the root cause back to deficiency of nutrients and an excess of empty carbohydrates.

Fibre can be described as the carbohydrates that you can’t digest. Because we lack the enzymes to break down fibre, it fills us up and controls hunger. It is a must for blood sugar balance because it slows down the absorption of any sugar or starch that is ingested along with it.

Digestible carbohydrates are classified into three types: Monosaccharides are single sugar molecules such as glucose; Disaccharides consist of two sugar molecules strung together (an example would be table sugar, which contains one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule); Starches are made of multiple sugar molecules linked together, such as all cereal grains, as well as roots and tubers.

Two major categories of fibre exist – soluble and insoluble – and our bodies do not have the ability to break down either one. However, we are able to ferment soluble fibre, which helps to create healthy bacteria in the gut. This is why soluble fibre is often called a pre-biotic.

OLIGOSACCHARIDES

This type of carbohydrate is most commonly found in one of the richest dietary sources of fibre: beans. Beans are comprised of soluble fibre that our healthy gut bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) can feed off of and use as fuel to proliferate. In some people, the result of this feeding process is often gas, and sometimes bloating. To reduce these outcomes, consider soaking your beans before consuming them. Keep in mind, though, that some of the oligosaccharides may be leeched into the water.

Another oligosaccharide that has received recent media attention is chitosan. Chitosan is derived from shellfish and has the ability to bind to and eliminate fat in the GI tract. It is often marketed as a “fat blocker.” Be aware that it does not discriminate between fats and may eliminate healthy omega-3 fats if they are taken in conjunction. Research also indicates that chitosan may be of benefit to those suffering from inflammatory conditions including arthritis and acute inflammation, but further study is needed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go/pmc/articles/PMC2901 823/pdf/marinedrugs-08-01763.pdf).

Another type of fibre is inulin, which is an oligofructose soluble fibre (three to 10 fructose molecules). It is marketed as a “pre-biotic” because it is fuel for the healthy bacteria in the gut. Inulin acts as fuel for bifidobacteria in the colon, necessary for guarding against harmful pathogens entering the system. Increasing inulin consumption and combining it with other dietary fibres has been shown to strengthen immunity, along with increasing the efficacy of polyphenols (plant compounds) in the human body (http://www.jpp.krakow.pl/journal/archive/12_09_s6/pdf/5_12_09_s6_article.pdf).

Inulin is an insoluble fibre that is readily available, easily packaged, and can be made to mix into a clear liquid. The raw forms of inulin can be found in chickpeas, jeruselem artichoke, chicory root, and asparagus.

Recent research has also suggested the use of inulin as a therapeutic aid for inflammatory bowel disease. When soluble fibre dissolves, it creates a sort of gel, adding smooth bulk that moves through the intestines. It also gives the intestines something to grip, so to speak, lessening the severity of the spasms that are often a part of IBS (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/11/2572S.long).

POLYSACCHARIDES

These carbohydrates are characterized by the number of sugar molecules strung together, and include cellulose, B-glucan, pectins, and hemicelluloses. Cellulose is the most common form of insoluble fibre. It contains thousands of glucose molecules packed together with beta-bonds, and is found in the structural cell walls or the outer skins of plants. In our diets, cellulose is often referred to as roughage.

B-Glucans combine both soluble and insoluble fibre components. They are widely found in grains and cereals including oats, barley, and even some mushrooms. B-Glucans are widely studied for reducing cholesterol because they bind to cholesterol in the GI tract and do not allow its absorption. Other fibres also do this, but B-Glucans produce the most effective results.

Pectins are a soluble source of fibre that are partially digested or fermented by the gut flora of the large intestine. This soluble fibre is often found in fruit, especially apples.

Hemicellulose encompasses the widest range of fibre sources. Because the molecular structure is no longer linear, but widely branched, hemicelluloses will have properties of both soluble and insoluble fibres. This type of fibre is often found in the plant cell wall with cellulose.

Health benefits of dietary fibre include the following:

– Helps prevent cancer and lower excess cholesterol;
– Helps normalize protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism;
– Helps balance blood sugar levels;
– Helps you feel full over a longer period of time;
– Helps remove excess toxins faster from the intestinal tract by reducing bowel transit time;
– Helps repopulate the intestinal tract with beneficial bacteria;
– Helps relieve problems associated with: constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
– Helps reduce varicose veins.

POPULAR FIBRE CHOICES

1) PGX as a novel fibre formula – Supplement companies combine different types of fibre to achieve optimum results. PGX combines konjac glucomannan, xanthan gum, and sodium alginate. These are three polysaccharides of similar properties that have a synergistic effect of binding and expanding when they are combined, with the highest water-holding capacity of any current fibre supplement.

When PGX is consumed with a meal, it has been shown to reduce sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar by up to 28%. Given PGX’s ability to expand, it induces feelings of satiety through hormonal regulation, reduces appetite, and is often used with success as a weight loss aid, showing losses of between 7 to 13 lbs in clinical trials of adults, both male and female (http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/15/1/68.pdf). The proprietary blend of PGX has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in subjects with hypercholesterolemia, as well as to reduce uric acid levels in the blood and protect against cardiovascular disease and gout (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2657159/?tool=pubmed)

2) Seed lignans – This type of fibre is indigestible but fermentable by humans, and is found in the husk of many seeds. The fibre lignans found in flax seed and psyllium seed have been shown to contain enterodiol and enterolactone, which not only feed the healthy bacteria of the gut, but also retard clinically-induced cancers of the colon (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2743755/?tool= pubmed).

Supplementation with plant/seed lignans has also been shown to improve glycemic control in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles /PMC2048577/?tool=pubmed).

3) Apple Pectin – This polysaccharide fibre is often used in jams and jellies because it is able to congeal to a spreadable texture. It is a popular ingredient in fibre supplement combinations, since it’s been shown in clinical trials to act as a fuel for bifidobacterium and as a catalyst with this beneficial bacterium to reduce the severity of clinically-induced colorectal tumours (http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/expanim/49/4/305/_pdf).

Researchers found that vegetable-based fibre (as opposed to that from cereal) was the most cancer protective. One of the fibre supplements that I like is Brad King’s Ultimate Fibre, because it contains an organic fruit and vegetable fibre matrix including celery, apple, rhubarb, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, and silica .

CAN YOU GET TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

Yes. In some cases of those experiencing IBS  (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), fibre can become an irritant. If you ingest more insoluble fibre than your body can handle, the result can be hard-to-pass stools that can distend and damage the intestinal lining, form blockages of compacted food, and create anal fissures. If you have an overgrowth of candida yeast in the gut, excess soluble fibre could ferment and cause gas, and potentially kill off the good bowel flora needed to fight a yeast infection. In this situation, an otherwise beneficial pre-biotic can become fuel for the wrong army, feeding the yeast instead of the good bacteria it was intended for. The solution is to listen to your body. Consult a Naturopathic Doctor for a stool analysis if your body cannot adjust to taking fibre or if you are experiencing discomfort for a long period of time.

The key to a healthy gastrointestinal tract is not just increasing fibre, but doing it in such a way as to benefit good gut bacteria. It is the large intestine’s natural bacteria that comprise stool bulk, maintain water content, and soften the stool. Fibre, particularly excessive insoluble fibre, can offer “a quick jump-start to get things moving,” but is not a long-term solution. It is important to enjoy lots of probiotics, like the ones found in fermented vegetables, to ensure good bowel health.

TIPS FOR FIBRE-IFIC SUCCESS

1. Keeping a food journal is the best way to figure out how much fibre you are eating each day. Once you know that, you can begin to slowly increase the amount until you reach your recommended amount. Increasing too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea.

2. Enjoy herbal teas and lemon water. If you do not consume enough fluids with your high-fibre diet, you may end up with constipation. Get into the habit of drinking a minimum of two cups between each meal and you will avoid any unwanted problems.

3. More is not always better, so don’t go overboard. Pay attention to how your bowel movements are responding to fibre intake, and speak with your health practitioner if you have any questions.

4. Supplement with plant enzymes and probiotics. If you tend to get bloated or gassy from raw veggies and/or beans, take digestive enzymes with meals. This will greatly reduce these side effects and make eating much more pleasurable. Also consider increasing your probiotic consumption to reduce yeast that may be causing your gas.

(Editor’s note: Probiotic supplements are best taken before bed, so they can do their work in the night while you sleep.)

As you can see by the chart below, legumes, seeds, and vegetables are the richest sources of fibre. Use this guide to easily obtain the daily requirement of 30 grams of fibre a day for optimal health!

Note: If you have diverticulitus or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), consult your health care practitioner to establish the amount of fibre that is safe for your condition.

Fibre Food

Amount of Fibre Grams (g)

Soluble

Insoluble

Combination

Apples 4.4g each
Chickpeas 28g/cup
Lentils 36g/cup
Oat bran 14g/cup
Flax Seeds 3g/tbsp
Mung Beans 34g/cup
Chia Seeds 11g/oz
Brown Rice 11g/oz
Psyllium Husk 4g/tbsp
Cooked Kale 3g/cup
Navy Beans 19g/cup
Barley 6g/cup
Cooked Spinach 4g/cup
Wheat Germ 15g/cup
Grapefruit 4.4g each
Asparagus (chopped) 4.4g each
Coconut Meat 7g/cup
Eggplant 3g/cup
Butternut Squash 7g/cup
Acorn Squash 6g/cup
Zucchini 3g/cup
Artichoke 10g each
Sweet Pepper 3g each
Cinnamon 4g/tbsp

Apples contain calcium D-glucarate, a phytochemical that protects the body against cancer by increasing liver detoxification. Slippery elm bark has been used for centuries to clear inflammation from the digestive system. Înulin helps to control blood sugar and the aloe vera gel helps those dealing with constipation and other intestinal problems.

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp slippery elm bark
  • 1 tsp inulin powder (or ground flax seed or sprouted chia seed powder)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 Tbsp aloe vera gel (use whole leaf filtered if you want a laxative effect)

1) Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Popular in Japanese cuisine, edamame are tender young soybeans, still in the pod, and very high in fibre.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steamed edamame beans, shelled
  • 1 cup sprouted chickpeas or lentils
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dill seeds or 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup water (or more as needed until desired consistency is achieved)
  • sea salt to taste

1) Place all ingredients into food processor or high-speed blender. Blend until silky smooth.

This hearty new spin on an old classic makes a great, fast meal and packs well for lunch the next day. Expect steady long-lasting energy from this vitamin- and mineral-charged dish. Lentils boast 8 grams of fibre per 1/2 cup serving. Much of this fibre is soluble and helps to stabilize your blood sugar.

Ingredients:

  • Salad:
  • 1 cup red pepper, julienned (matchstick-size pieces)
  • 19 oz (540 mL) can green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste

1) Mix all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.

2) Place all salad ingredients in a bowl and top with dressing. Mix well and taste to adjust seasoning.

3) The flavour improves as the salad marinates, so consider making it ahead. Can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Bramble is an old-fashioned word for raspberries or blackberries. Before the 1600s, oats were the main source of carbs in Ireland, and Irish oatmeal is still an extremely popular and healthy Irish breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • For the crumble:
  • 5 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 3 cups sliced rhubarb, about 1/3-inch thick
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp PGX fibre (other fibre can be experimented with instead)
  • Topping:
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup Irish rolled oats (use rolled quinoa if oat sensitive)
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame butter)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • This topping can be replaced by a pre-made crunchy granola
  • Creamy topping:
  • 1 cup probiotic yogurt
  • Optional probiotic boost (open a capsule of probiotics into yogurt topping)
  • 1/2 cup clover honey

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking dish and set aside

2) In a medium bowl, combine the raspberries, rhubarb, honey, PGX fibre, and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared baking dish.

3) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the rice flour, oats, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt, stirring to combine. Add the tahini to the flour mixture, and using your fingers, work the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Pour the crumb mixture evenly on top of the strawberry mixture.

4) Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Makes 10 servings.

Ingredients:

  • Salad:
  • 2-3 heads endive, washed, trimmed, and sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled, stemmed, and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp pecans, crushed
  • 2-1/2 g PGX fibre blend (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch sea salt

1) Wash endive and place full sized leaves on a plate.

2) Top with sliced strawberry, pecans, and PGX fiber.

3) Drizzle dressing over top.

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