Fibre is useful in controlling insulin — your fat storage hormone. Since fibre slows digestion it also slows glucose absorption (the rate at which the metabolized sugars from food are absorbed into the blood). An absence of fibre can result in less control of insulin response, referred to as insulin spiking, and failure to benefit from the thermogenic cost of digesting food (digestion burns calories!).
Fibre is classified as both insoluble and soluble and both have important health benefits for your body.
Insoluble fibres are found in brown rice, fruits, legumes, seeds, whole grains, wheat bran and vegetables. The key role of insoluble fibre is for the healthy function of waste elimination (regular bowel movements, healthy fecal weight and speed). A healthy intake also reduces colon cancer risk.
Soluble fibres are found in fruits, vegetables, seeds, oats and oat bran, seeds, rye, barley and legumes. They have the potential to lower blood cholesterol, slow glucose absorption, slow digestion (meaning you feel full longer) and hold moisture in the stool.
Generally speaking, fibres cannot be broken down in the digestive tract and pass through the body. Fibres don’t come from dairy or meat products so you will have to eat your veggies — and lots of them!
If you drink any type of fruit juice, e.g. fresh squeezed or a fruit ‘drink’ (which has added sugar) instead of eating the whole fruit, you miss out on the fibre, resulting in a greater insulin spike. Yes, some packaged fruit juices have added pulp, but this is no where near the amount of pulp you would consume by eating the whole fruit.
In September, 2005 I was in Salt Lake City, Utah and witnessed the results of a live study. Dr. Ray Strand and his research team took 42 people and fed them breakfast. They were split into three groups, each group receiving 230 calories. The first group consumed a small glass of orange juice and a cereal bar (the kind you would find in the cereal isle at the grocery store). The second group consumed a small glass of orange juice and a half bagel. The third group consumed a low glycemic, high fibre, macro-nutrient balanced shake.
What effects do you think these three different meals (all 230 calories) had on the participant’s gycemic index (blood sugar level)?
The first groups insulin spiked over 70 very quickly. The second group spiked between 50 and 60 (a typical breakfast for many). The third group, however, did not spike! They maintained a low glycemic level, somewhere around 30. The lower the number is where you want to be to maintain a healthy body weight.
In similar studies the first two groups also consumed almost twice as many calories in the remainder of the day, resulting in weight gain. The reason: their blood sugar kept crashing and the foods these people tend to eat when they are hungry or suddenly low on energy, is high in sugar or saturated and trans-fats (e.g. donuts, cookies, chips, etc.).
Another example of a food that causes a spike in insulin is potatoes when eaten alone. A good rule of thumb is to always eat a balanced meal (protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats), which will slow digestion from high-glycemic foods, and to choose foods high in fibre, such as slow-cooked oatmeal, nuts and beans (Romano, kidney, black turtle beans). Choose to limit the amounts of insulin-spiking foods, e.g. all types of chips (potato, corn, etc.), white bread, low-fibre breakfast cereals, and breakfast bars.
Another tip: try to think not only about the number of calories you eat throughout the day, but also in terms of eating balanced meals to control your insulin levels.
To sum up, fibre will help you to increase and maintain your energy levels by slowing down digestion and the absorption of sugar, thus controlling your insulin levels. With insulin levels in check, the body can use stored body fat as a source of fuel, keeping you leaner. Fibre will help you feel full longer without the lulls in energy that result from eating high glycemic carbs.
© 2011 Darren Stehle & Integrated Fitness. All Rights Reserved.