Fibre — Don’t Poo-Poo It!

By increasing our consumption of fibre we can counteract some of the adverse effects the modern diet is having on blood glucose levels which are contributing to obesity and Type II diabetes.

Photo by Leilani Angel on Unsplash

Obesity is a puzzle, but the more I experiment with my diet the more I’m starting to realise what an important role fibre plays.

“The good food we’ve stopped eating may be as important as the rubbish we’ve started eating.”

One of the first diets that I tried was a reduced carbohydrate diet and I can remember hearing one of the low-carb zealots telling an audience that fibre was pointless, “Why would you want to eat something when all it did was make your poop bigger?” they asked.

But proponents of other diets have waxed lyrical about the benefits of fibre — whether it is to aid digestion or to promote a healthier gut microbiome. I’ve always enjoyed eating vegetables which are generally high in fibre and low in calories. Cabbage and broccoli have always been a regular part of my diet so I’ve never given too much thought as to how they might affect my overall health and weight.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. When I followed a keto diet, which I did for 6 months, I became quite knowledgeable about the carbohydrate content of most common foods including vegetables.

Recently, I have been using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to analyse my blood glucose level and, more particularly, the effect that different foods have on it. The effect of fibre has been revelatory.

The rise of the Western diet has caused a reduction in our fibre consumption in several ways:

  1. We are eating a lot more refined carbohydrates. These are generally cereals that have had the fibre stripped away. Carbs are largely metabolised into glucose so naturally have the biggest impact on blood sugar. When you strip the fibre away it enables the gut to metabolise them faster which can lead to a big spike in blood sugar requiring a more dramatic insulin response.
  2. We are eating fewer vegetables. When you eat fresh vegetables with (or preferably before) a refined carbohydrate such as pizza or pasta, it really cushions the blow of the glucose by slowing the digestion. So whatever positive impact eating vegetables is having on your digestion or gut microbiome, it may be that the effect it is having on blood sugar levels is even more important.
  3. We have taken to juices and smoothies as a way to ingest our fruit and veg but this is not always very helpful. When we juice fruit and vegetables we remove a lot of the fibre. When you remove the fibre from vegetables you remove their power to affect blood glucose, when you remove the fibre from fruit you basically end up with sugar and a huge blood glucose spike when you drink it. Smoothies don’t remove the fibre but they break it down to such a degree that it disables this function of slowing down the digestion of the carbohydrates.

By filling you up and smoothing the peaks and troughs of our blood glucose levels, fibre removes cravings for sweet foods and any desire to snack between meals. These effects have a very positive impact on your weight and your wellbeing in general.

So, eat plenty of fibre as part of well-balanced meals that include fats and protein. You can poo-poo it later.

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