Living with diabetes can be pretty confusing, especially when faced with seemingly contradictory advice on what to eat and when. Start off simple by becoming familiar with these three little-known facts about fibre and how this essential part of the diet affects diabetes management:
- Not all fibre is created equal (and food labels can be misleading!)
- Some fibre speeds things up, some slows things down
- The right kind of fibre can help with blood glucose control
The average adult should consume 21–38 g of fibre each day, while someone with diabetes may be advised to consume up to 50 g per day. While this can be good advice, it may also be misleading because…
1. Not all fibre is created equal
Many foods which have a high-fibre content listed on their nutrition label can actually still be high on the glycemic index (GI) and lead to rapid increases in blood sugar and demands on insulin. Such foods include white bread, pasta, potatoes, and many breakfast cereals.
Many foods which [are] high-fibre… can actually still be high on the glycemic index (GI)
Even some whole wheat products have a high GI because the flour is so finely milled that its carbohydrate content is digested almost as fast as the simple carbohydrates in refined white flour. Choosing healthy whole grains, such as quinoa, whole oats, and brown rice, is preferable. These foods not only contain intact vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients, they also offer soluble fibre.
2. A Matter of Speed and Solubility
Let’s take a closer look at the key issue of solubility and speed.
- Doesn’t dissolve in water, passing through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract relatively intact
- Speeds up the movement of food and water through the GI tract
- Bulks up stool and helps eliminate waste from the body
- Is mainly found in whole grains and vegetables
Conversely, soluble fibre:
- Attracts water and forms a gel, which slows down digestion
- Slows down how quickly the stomach empties
- Binds to cholesterol in food to lower absorption
- Is found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and seeds.
Some great sources of soluble fibre include:
- Oatmeal, oat bran, and oat cereal
- Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, and strawberries
- Nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed and chia)
- Beans and dried peas
- Cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, and carrots
3. The Right Kind of Fibre for Blood Glucose Control
Soluble fibre slows down the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream after eating. As such, it is highly effective at stabilizing blood sugar and reducing demands on insulin that can lead to insulin resistance. It also adds bulk to foods, increasing fullness, while lowering overall caloric intake. The gel-like nature of soluble fibre also helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (“bad cholesterol”) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes.