etting fiber at almost every meal, especially the soluble type, should be a goal for people with diabetes type 2. Why? Because soluble fiber lowers total and LDL cholesterol (the bad guy), and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the part in plant foods that humans can’t digest. Because we can’t digest it, it goes from the stomach to the small and large intestines without being absorbed and out the other end. There are two kinds of fiber:
Insoluble fiber. This fiber does not dissolve in water. It acts like a scrubber, pushing food along and helping to clean the intestinal wall as it passes through.
Soluble fiber. This type is important if you have diabetes type 2. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes a kind of gel.
How soluble fiber helps diabetics
Soluble fiber has many benefits for diabetics. Diets that include foods high in fiber have been reported to:
Lower total and LDL cholesterol
Lower blood sugar level after meals
Decrease glucose in the urine
Decrease insulin needs
Increase tissue sensitivity to insulin
Decrease levels of triglycerides
Soluble fiber prevents peaks and low valleys in blood glucose
During digestion, after soluble fiber dissolves in water, it traps nutrients inside its gel, among them carbohydrates and starches that are part of the meal. This prevents the enzymes in charge of digesting the carbohydrates and starches from getting to them as fast as they will if the meal had not contained soluble fiber.
As a result, the sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream at a slow pace, preventing the sharp spike in blood glucose diabetics experience after a meal. Fewer spikes in blood glucose translate into greater sensitivity to the action of insulin.
Avoiding high peaks and low valleys in blood glucose places less stress on the pancreas. This is very important not only to diabetics but also to those who want to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Besides trapping fat and cholesterol that would otherwise be digested by the body, soluble fiber also traps bile, a substance needed to digest food. The liver uses part of the cholesterol in the blood to produce bile but when soluble fiber takes bile out of the body, the liver is forced to go to the blood, get cholesterol, and make bile. All this translates into less cholesterol in the blood.
Where can you get soluble fiber?
Most plants contain both, soluble and insoluble fiber. About one-quarter to one-third of the total amount of fiber in plants is soluble. However, some plant foods have more than others. The following foods are the richest sources of soluble fiber:
Beans. Any type of beans such as navy beans, lentils, garbanzos, split peas have a good amount of soluble fiber. One-half cup of cooked beans will add about 2 grams of soluble fiber to your meal. Include several servings of beans a week.
Oats and oat bran. One-half cup dry oat bran contributes 3 grams of soluble fiber. Include a cereal high in fiber for breakfast or as an evening snack.
Barley. This grain has been consumed in other parts of the world for centuries. ¾ cup of cooked barley contributes 1.8 grams of soluble fiber.
Some fruits. Apples, mangos, plums, kiwis, pears, all types of berries, peaches, citrus fruits, are the highest contributors of soluble fiber among fruits.
Some vegetables. Artichokes, celery, sweet potatoes, potatoes with skin, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green peas, broccoli, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus are high in soluble fiber.
Psyllium seed products. One teaspoon of Psyllium will give you about 3 grams of soluble fiber. ground flaxseed is also high in fiber
Adjusting to fiber
If you are not used to eat too much fiber, either because you eat mostly refined grain products or very few vegetables, increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water. Otherwise you could experience gas and bloating and you may consider giving up on your fiber intake.
If you cook beans you may want to read my article on how to degas beans.
Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber is one of the best things you can do to manage your blood sugar levels. If you are pre-diabetic, your goal is to prevent pre-diabetes from becoming full-blown diabetes. Make soluble fiber your partner on this endeavor.