The Benefits of Fibre
When your mother used to say “eat your fibre” … how did you feel? “Oh no not that horrible bran for breakfast again … that chewy stuff that tastes like cardboard”! Well if you still feel that way about fibre … you need to start thinking differently. Fibre is an important, vital ingredient for good human health. If we don’t eat enough, we leave ourselves exposed to a raft of health problems … from haemorrhoids and constipation to diabetes and cancer. When you eat primarily natural plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits and beans you get huge amounts of many of the key types of health promoting fibres. As these foods are rich in complex carbohydrates, they slow down glucose absorption and control the rate of digestion. Plant fibres have a very beneficial effect on the digestive tract, and amongst many other things … significantly lower cholesterol.
Natural plant foods are an exceptionally good way to obtain the vital fibre you need, because precious food components haven’t been removed through processing. Another benefit is that plant foods fill you up because they don’t cause hormonal imbalances and abnormal physiological cravings. You may recall however reading some very confusing and conflicting reports in the press lately on the subject of fibre and its benefits. These in the main were based on two recent studies published first in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a nut shell, the studies seemed to show that the cancer preventing aspects of fibre were not as great as many had claimed. This was then reported in other (less reputable media outlets) as “High Fibre Diet Does Not Protect Against Colon Cancer”. Before we examine these statements and the contents of the two studies, I think its an appropriate time to mention a vital truth when it comes to health, wellness and (in particular) weight loss: “Don’t get your health advise from the media”! The general public are regularly bombarded by conflicting messages about nutrition and this confusion and inconsistency has resulted in many giving up completely trying to eat healthfully.
Regarding the two studies themselves, it is important to be careful not to jump to conclusions just based on one new study … when maybe thousands of past research papers over a period of many decades have came to totally different opinion. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable … high fibre foods offer significant health benefits, especially with regard to providing protection against both cancer (including colon cancer) and heart disease. The studies mentioned above did not show that a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and raw nuts and seeds does not protect against colon cancer. It has already been adequately demonstrated in hundreds of observational studies that such a diet does offer such protection from cancer at multiple sites, including the colon. One study compared controls against a group of people who were counselled on improving their diet. The participants continued to follow their usual (disease-causing) diet and made only a moderate dietary change — a slight reduction in fat intake, with a modest increase in fruits and vegetables for four years. The number of colorectal adenomas four years later was similar. Colorectal adenomas are not colon cancer; they are benign polyps. Only a very small percentage of these polyps ever advance to become colon cancer, and the clinical significance of small benign adenomas is not clear. In any case, it is a huge leap to claim that a diet high in fruits and vegetables does not protect against cancer. This study did not even attempt to address colon cancer, just benign polyps that rarely progress to cancer.
In both studies, even the groups supposedly consuming a high- fibre intake were on a low-fibre diet by any standards. The group consuming the most fibre only ate 25 grams of fibre a day. The high- fibre intake is merely a marker of many anti-cancer properties of natural foods, especially phytochemicals. The diet plan recommend on this site (to be discussed in detail later) is not based on any one study, but on more than two thousand studies and the results have been seen with thousands of confirmed cases. Following this plan, you will consume between 50 and 100 grams of fibre (from real food, not supplements) per day. The reality is that healthy, nutritious foods are also very rich in fibre and that those foods associated with disease risk are generally fibre-deficient. Meat and dairy products do not contain any fibre, and foods made from refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, and pasta) have had their fibre removed. Clearly, we must substantially reduce our consumption of these fibre-deficient foods if we expect to lose weight and live a long, healthy life.
Another far more balanced report on the subject of fibre was published in the October 27, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It stated “Fibre intake from food is an excellent indicator of disease risk. The amount of fibre consumed is a much better barometer when it comes to weight gain, insulin levels and other cardiovascular risk factors … even more so than measuring the total amount of fat consumed”. The article goes on to point out that the common practice of removing the fibre from food is extremely dangerous and time and again it has been proven …that people who consume the most high fibre foods are the healthiest, as determined by better waist measurements, lower insulin levels and other key indicators of disease risk. Indeed, this is one of the key themes of this site or to anyone considering his or her diet healthy … it must be predominantly composed of high-fibre, natural foods. It is not the fibre extracted from the plant package that has miraculous health properties. It is the entire plant package considered as a whole, containing nature’s anti-cancer nutrients as well as being rich in fibre.