Fiber Facts and Net Carbs

Fiber Facts:

Dietary fibre is probably best known for its ability to prevent and relieve constipation. But did you know that fibre can also lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and may even protect against colon and rectal cancer?

There are 2 categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. We need to include both of these into our diets to maintain health.

  • Although soluble and insoluble fibre cannot be broken down in your intestines, that doesn’t mean you can say fibre doesn’t provide any calories.
    • Insoluble fibre cannot be absorbed by the body, so it technically does not provide energy (which explains why insoluble fibre calories are not added into the total calories on food labels in the USA. In Canada, however, this is mandatory, which explains why Canadian Quest Nutrition Bars and Fibre 1 Cereal have more calories than identical American versions).
    • Soluble fibre, however, is partially fermented in the body, so it can contribute some energy.
  • Soluble fibre (e.g. psyllium fibre) dissolves in water to make a gel-like substance. This substance delays the speed at which food passes through your intestines. It also contributes to healthy cholesterol levels and helps regulate blood sugar levels*.
  • Insoluble fibre (e.g. wheat bran) is like “roughage”. It passes through the digestive system largely unchanged, and increases the speed at which the “bulked” undigested food moves through the large intestine*.

Did you know that a high fibre diet facilitates weight loss?  A high fibre diet makes you feel full for a long period of time, which can help minimize overeating.

The American Dietetic Association recommends that adults should consume 20-35g of dietary fibre per day, of which 5 to 10 g should be soluble fibre. It’s important you meet your recommended daily fibre intake because this will give you more freedom with your diet. Why? Because insoluble fibre reduces the absorption of sugar and starch, which lessens the glucose-insulin spikes in the bloodstream. It’s easy to meet your fibre needs if you eat lots of fruit and vegetables. 

Do not exceed the recommended intake of fibre — otherwise you run the risk of bloating and malabsorption of nutrients. From a bodybuilding perspective, between 40 and 60 grams of fibre a day is acceptable. Do not go beyond 60g/day.

What are Net Carbs?

Not all carbs behave the same way in the body. Understanding the different behaviour of various carbohydrates in your body can help you make healthier food choices. Most carbohydrates are digested by your body and converted into glucose. These are referred to as digestible carbohydrates1. They contribute 4 calories per gram.

However, there are carbohydrates that do not have an impact on your blood-sugar levels. For example, glycerin is digested without being converted into glucose2. I already mentioned that insoluble fibre is not digested in the small intestine, and is not broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.  Your body eventually excretes insoluble fibre.

  • Net carbs refers to the notion of subtracting insoluble fiber from the total carbohydrate count.
  • Since insoluble fibre is not converted to blood sugar, this allows you some carbohydrate leeway, meaning you can “cheat” with a few extra carbs in the form of high-fiber foods.
  • For example, let’s compare 1 conventional crispbread to 1 GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbread. The conventional crispbread contains 10 g of carbs and 2 g of fiber, which means 10g-2g = 8 g of carbs that will actually enter into your bloodstream. The GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbread, however, contains 7.5 g of carbs and 4 g of fibre, which means only 7.5g-4g = 3.5g impact on your blood sugar.
  •  This means if you opt to eat fiber-rich foods you can benefit your health and get more bang for your carbohydrate buck1.

 

References:

1. http://www.atkins.com

2. http://www.konjacfoods.com

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Dr. Sara Solomon About Dr. Sara Solomon

Dr. Solomon is a practicing dentist (DMD) in Toronto, Canada, and holds a B.Sc in Physiotherapy. This certified personal trainer, spinning instructor, professional fitness model and cover girl is known around the world for [read more]

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