5 Diseases that Fibre Fights
You know that fibre keeps you regular. But did you also know that it fights many common-and deadly-diseases? Here’s how fibre can help keep afflictions at bay, and how to incorporate enough of it into your daily diet.
1. Breast Cancer
Whole grains are a good source of fibre, and when it comes to preventing breast cancer, you really can’t get too much. Think of fibre as a type of flypaper, but instead of pesky insects, what you’re trapping is estrogen. Estrogen continually cycles through the digestive tract and is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Fibre grabs it so it won’t be reabsorbed, thereby lowering your body’s estrogen levels.
Whole-grain foods may also help in other ways. Because fibre slows carbohydrate metabolism, foods like high-fibre cereals and whole-wheat bread may indirectly protect against breast tumours by reducing sugar spikes, thereby keeping insulin levels low. Excess insulin is known to promote breast cancer growth.
Aim for: At least three servings of whole grains daily. One serving is ½ cup (125 milliliters) of whole-grain pasta or rice oe a slice of whole-grain bread.
Helpful tip: Try mixing a cup (250 milliliters) of whole-grain cereal with ¼ cup (50 milliliters) of dried fruit for a tasty snack that covers you for a serving of whole grains and a serving of fruit.
2. Colon Cancer
The news on whether fibre protects against colon cancer flips more often than pancakes at an all-night diner. And yet, despite conflicting studies, specialists are still encouraging us to eat more than the 15 grams of fibre we typically get each day. Why? Fibre helps speed food through your system so any carcinogens you may have eaten don’t linger long enough to cause trouble. And as it’s digested by bacteria in the gut, compounds are formed that protect against carcinogenic bile acids, also produced during digestion.
Aim for: Between 25 and 35 grams of fibre daily.
Helpful tip: You can get close to 25 grams with three servings of whole grains-like a sandwich made with whole-wheat bread plus ½ cup (125 milliliters) of brown rice-and seven servings (a mere half cup/125 milliliters each) of fruits and vegetables. To boost your fibre even more, add a few servings of legumes, nuts, seeds, and high-fibre cereal.
Whole grains and other complex carbohydrates deserve top billing on any antidiabetes menu. Oats, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are loaded with soluble fibre, which dissolves into water, forming a gel in your stomach. That slows digestion, which is critical for heading off blood sugar spikes. Soluble fibre also reduces cholesterol, lowering your risk of heart disease-the problem most people with diabetes ultimately die of. Insoluble fibre, which passes through the intestines intact and is found mostly in whole wheat and some fruits and vegetables, is also linked to lower diabetes risk.
Aim for: 25 to 35 grams of fibre per day. One cup (250 milliliters) of lentils has 9 grams, and ½ cup (125 milliliters) has 12 grams.
Helpful tip: Three good ways to get more fibre are to have whole-grain cereal for breakfast (look for one with at least 5 grams of fibre per serving), switch to whole-wheat bread sandwiches, and eat at least one bean-based meal per week.
4. Heart Disease
The secret ingredient in foods like oatmeal, oat bran, legumes, beans, and peas is soluble fibre, the kind that reduces cholesterol by soaking it up so it’s flushed out of the body as waste. Studies show that diets low in fat and rich in soluble fibre can reduce total cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 percent, which in many cases may be enough to get you into the target range.
Aim for: 25 to 35 grams of fibre each day. Of that, 10 grams should be soluble fibre.
Helpful hint: Oats contain more soluble fibre than any other grain, 2 to 3 grams per serving. Having just two servings of regular oatmeal or oat bran cereal a day lowers cholesterol by 2 to 3 percent. Not into oats? A half cup of beans, legumes, or peas also contains 2 grams of soluble fibre.
Eat a bowl of brown rice topped with chickpeas and sautéed vegetables for lunch, and it’s likely you won’t want another bite until supper. High-fibre foods like these have few calories, little fat, and lots of bulk, which keeps you full. They’re also digested slowly, which means your blood sugar stays at an even keel instead of rapidly spiking and falling, which leaves you hungry again in no time. Whole grains also provide nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin B6, that many weight-loss diets are deficient in. A great way to get a good dose of fibre is to start your day with high-fibre cereal.
Aim for: 25 to 35 grams of fibre per day. A cup (250 milliliters) of chickpeas has about 7 grams, and ½ cup (125 millilitres) of bran cereal has more than 8.
Helpful hint: If whole grains put you off, ease yourself into the idea by adding them in small amounts. For instance, mix half your usual cereal with a half serving of whole-grain cereal and add some brown rice to white rice. Gradually increase the amount of whole grains as your tastebuds adjust.