Consider these facts:
- More than 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes
- 13.6 million people are now at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the UK
- You’re more at risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a close family member who has diabetes
- 850,000 people are currently living with type 2 diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed.
The good news is that research has consistently shown that for some people, lifestyle interventions like including diet, physical activity and sustained weight loss can be effective in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50%.1https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics When it comes to type 2 diabetes, information is power!
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type-2 diabetes is a condition that occurs when your body is unable to process insulin and glucose effectively. This results in raised blood glucose levels which may lead to a number of symptoms and health problems including increased thirst, increased urination, fatigue, nerve and sight problems, as well as cardiovascular issues. 2https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
We know that managing your simple carbohydrate intake and cutting back on sugar is important when it comes to managing type-2 diabetes.3https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/ But there is one simple thing you can add into your daily diet that will really help manage this condition – dietary fibre!
So where does dietary fibre come from?
Fibre is found in plant foods which are technically carbohydrates. In order to consume enough fibre to keep our gut bacteria happy, we need to eat a variety of plant foods. Carbohydrates have developed a bad reputation recently, so it’s important to make distinction between the different types of carbs. Not all carbs are created equal.
It’s important to avoid processed simple carbohydrates like white rice and bread, sweets and junk foods that are high in refined flours, sugars and saturated fats. Instead, opt for whole, unrefined, complex carbs like pulses, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Rather than excluding carbs altogether, the trick is to be picky about which ones you eat!
These healthy complex carbs can be your best friends when it comes to controlling sugar cravings. Dietary fibre helps us to feel full and improves appetite control. 4https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2007.06.004 We have in-built mechanisms for regulating appetite: hormones and cellular chemicals control whether we feel hungry and seek food or feel full and stop eating. 5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20424341/. Protein, carbohydrates and fats all play a role in appetite regulation, as does fibre! 6https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00592-021-01727-5 But fibre has other benefits for your health as well.
The benefits of eating fibre (ideally at every meal):
- Dietary fibre helps influence the hormones that suppress our appetite. 7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30621363/8https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32623619/
- Insoluble fibre (whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds) helps with the formation of soft, bulky stools to ensure healthy, regular bowel movements. 9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30621363/
- Soluble fibre (flaxseeds, oats, rice, apples, beans) mixes with water in the digestive tract to form a soft gel. This slows down digestion, allowing for a gradual release of glucose from a meal. Frequent spikes in blood glucose levels can eventually lead to insulin resistance, causing and/or exacerbating diabetes.10https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30621363/. Soluble fibre is considered prebiotic fibre – it provides fuel for our beneficial gut bacteria.
- Both soluble and insoluble fibre in fruits and vegetables ‘stretch’ the stomach due to their volume: this sends signals to the brain that we are full which helps to control appetite and manage weight. 11https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30621363/
Fibre also indirectly helps to reduce the risk of diabetes via your gut bacteria and the substances they produce.
Fibre (particularly soluble fibre) provides a fuel source for our friendly gut bacteria and in turn, these gut microbes perform some amazing functions such as producing short-chain fatty acids. These SCFAs, such as acetate, butyrate and propionate, have many beneficial effects including their influence on metabolic processes in the body which are important for reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes. 12https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24325907/:
- Glucose metabolism: short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate and propionate increase the uptake of glucose into cells, thereby reducing blood glucose levels. 13https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31426593/
- Insulin sensitivity – SCFAs increase cells’ response to insulin 14https://rdcu.be/cPigV
- Appetite hormones: SCFAs such as propionate, acetate and butyrate influence a range of appetite hormones resulting in suppressing hunger and reducing energy intake 15https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665114001657
And that’s not all. Other friendly bacteria, like Akkermansia, also have a positive effect on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.16https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34125276/. You can find more information on the so-called ‘lean bug’ here: https://www.chucklinggoat.co.uk/eat-right-to-boost-the-lean-bug/
How can we increase our gut’s production of short-chain fatty acids?
The answer is to eat a wide range of fibre-rich foods!
Here are some fibre-rich foods to consider adding to your diet to help all those beneficial gut bacteria grow and thrive:
|Pulses & Legumes||Nuts & Seeds||Fruit||Vegetables|| |
Simple ways to add these plant foods to your everyday meals:
It’s all about mixing up the types of fibre in your diet – diversity is key. In the interest of keeping it simple, here are some easy additions to your current dishes:
- Add a teaspoon of flaxseeds to your porridge, granola or muesli
- Try different types of pasta – buckwheat, spelt, lentil
- When you’re having a rice dish, mix brown rice with quinoa or cauliflower rice
- Add a few tablespoons of barley grains to a soup/stew or some cooked chickpeas to your lunchtime salad.
- If you’re making a lentil dish – use a combination of red, green, yellow and brown lentils if the recipe allows.
- Add diced peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, celery, and grated carrot to a tomato-based sauce.
- When you make chilli, add black beans as well as red kidney beans
- Add a side of sauerkraut to your salad or pasta dish
- You could also add our Complete Prebiotic powder to your daily smoothie for a whopping 10 grams of fibre, including 18 different fibres!
Remember to drink plenty of water alongside fibre to avoid constipation and if you are currently on a low-fibre diet, introduce fibre slowly to avoid digestive upset such as flatulence and bloating.
When you add more fibre to your diet, you’re likely to notice that your digestive health will improve, your energy levels will even out and sugar cravings reduce. Not only that, your gut bugs will thank you for all the fuel you’re providing them! And in turn, they will work hard to influence the way in which we process glucose, how our cells respond to insulin and how well our hormones work to curb our appetite!
Wondering how your fibre intake is affecting your gut bugs? Consider taking a microbiome test, which will show exactly what your dietary fibre levels are and more!
If you have any questions about how to improve your gut health, feel free to contact our team of Nutritional Therapists on live chat, 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays.