Dietary fibre: Rough(anti)age

Dietary fibre, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates – which your body breaks down and absorbs – fibre isn’t digested by your body.

tara godfrey

Tara Godfrey Registered Nutritional Counselor

Two categories of fibre exist: those that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble fibre) and those that do (soluble fibre).

Insoluble fibre promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fibre.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. You can find generous quantities of soluble fibre in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fibre foods throughout the day to total a minimum of 20 grams with plenty of water. What are the benefits of a higher fibre diet? A high-fibre diet may lower your risk of specific disorders, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and the development of small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels.

Fibre, particularly in the soluble form, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes, can help improve blood sugar levels. A high-fibre diet may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. High-fibre foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fibre diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fibre diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. (Mayo Clinic, 2001)

To boost your intake of fibre add these good choices: Grains and whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes, nuts and seeds

Switch these options out : Refined or processed foods – such as fruit juice, white bread and pasta, and non-whole-grain cereals – as they are lower in fibre content. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fibre content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fibre content. Top foods in dietary fibre fruits include : Raspberries, oranges, grapefruits, apples and pears. Dried varieties of these are also very high in fibre.

When increasing your dietary fibre, do it slowly and add consistently until you get to the target amount. Drink plenty of water to minimize any negative side effects such as gas, abdominal bloating, cramping, and constipation.

Whole foods rather than fibre supplements are generally better. Fibre supplements – such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FibreCon – don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that high-fibre foods do. However, some people may still need a fibre supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient, or if they have certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Check with your doctor if you feel you need to take fibre supplements.


I am a 35 year old woman in good health. I am 5 ft 6 ½’ and weigh 142 lbs. I jog 3 times a week (about 3 miles each time). I have recently joined a gym to build muscle & tone. I am comfortable with my weight but believe that if I lost a few pounds (about 5 or so?) I would see my muscle tone better especially on my lower body. My diet consists mainly of chicken & fish (and occasionally beef & pork), ground provisions, whole wheat bread, vegetables & fruits. I eat sweets and drink red wine moderately (once or twice a week). I can work out 4 days per week. What would be the best kind of diet & fitness regimen to promote a more toned body?


A Loyal Reader

Hello Loyal Reader,

Let me first of all congraduate you on being 95% of the way to success and into the fine tuning for your body. To answer your question, my advise to you would be to view the standardized guidelines for weight loss and health improvement through behavioral change, and compare them to your situation. These key lifestyle factors include exercise, food and water consumption, and accountability methods. Let me summarize these recommendations. The requirement for exercise is five days a week at an aerobic pace for a minimum of 20 minute duration. The suggestion for food and water consumption can be summarized as five or more servings of fruits or vegetables per day, two to four lean protein options including dairy and calcium alternatives, 20grams of fiber, and a minimum of three liters or 100 ounces of water per day, plus an extra half liter or 16 ounces for 20 minutes of exercise. As for accountability methods, it is recommended that you keep a food/water/exercise journal for the next two weeks and compare your actual behaviors to the standards listed above.

From the detailed information you have sent to me already I would suggest that you increase your exercise with two more days, review how much water you are drinking, and limit the