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Nutritionist's Corner

Susan Finkelstein, MHSc, RD

Susan Finkelstein is a Registered Dietitian who does freelance writing. She completed a one-year internship at the University Health Network and a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto. With over 14 years of experience, she has worked in hospitals, with industry and for public health. She particularly enjoys writing for consumers and making sense of seemingly hard-to understand, scientific nutrition information. Susan has been doing freelance writing for a variety of publications for over 10 years.

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Nutritionist versus Dietitian
Fibre and Staying Regular

What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

The title “Nutritionist” is not regulated by law. Anyone can potentially use that title, regardless of their training or education. “Registered Dietitians” (RD) are regulated by Ontario law through the College of Dietitians of Ontario. This governing body ensures that all dietitians meet legal and professional standards for safe, ethical and quality health care. All RDs have a 4-year undergraduate degree in nutrition from a university, and have completed either a one-year internship or a Master’s Degree. Finally, every dietitian must pass a licensing exam from the College in order to be allowed to practice in Ontario.

For further information, please visit the College of Dietitians of Ontario website at

Staying Regular: All Fibres are Not Created Equal

Fibre - the indigestible part of plant foods is known for its ability to keep you regular. It does this by passing through the gut undigested. As it passes through the gut, it absorbs water, which increases stool weight. Women aged 19 to 50 are advised to get 25 g of fibre each day; men require 38 g. As we get older and our calorie intake decreases, we need less fibre. After 50, women should aim for 21 g, men 16 g. The average Canadian consumes between 11 g and 17 g of fibre each day. Fibre is found in whole grains; beans and lentils; vegetables and fruit; and some packaged products, like yogurt, juice and grain-based bars – because of manufacturers adding fibre. However, beware - not all fibres have the same affect on regularity. The fibre found in whole grains is in the bran portion of the kernel. The brans that we most commonly eat are from wheat, rye, corn and oats. Wheat bran, found in whole grain whole wheat products, is the most effective in maintaining regularity followed by the bran in rye, corn and oat. Choose whole grain whole wheat breads, pastas, crackers and cereals. Brown rice and whole grain oats are also good options. The amount of fibre in whole grain products can vary from 2 g to 15 g.

After bran comes beans. Some have 6 g or 7 g of fibre in half a cup. Health Canada recommends having meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often. Add beans such as black beans, chickpeas or kidney beans to salads.

Next in line, in terms of fibre-effectiveness on regularity, are vegetables and fruit. The recommendations are 7 to 10 servings per day for adults, where one serving is equal to one small piece of fruit; ½ cup fresh, frozen or cooked veggies; or ½ cup of juice. Vegetables and fruit contain essential vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals- which protect against disease, in addition to fibre. Each serving of vegetable or fruit has around 2 g or 3 g of fibre.

You can also find packaged products with fibre because of an added ingredient called inulin. Inulin is a white, odourless powder that is usually extracted from chicory root. Inulin counts as fibre on Nutrition Facts labels because it is not broken down by digestive enzymes as it passes through the body.

Some yogurts- like Activia, and granola bars- like Fibre 1, and Fibre Plus, contain inulin. These types of fibres are not effective in increasing stool weight and therefore, would not affect regularity. And when consumed in large amounts, they have the not-so-pleasant side effects, of intestinal gas and bloating.

The following are some ideas to boost fibre in your diet on a regular basis. Before you start remember to increase fibre gradually over a period of weeks to give your intestinal tract time to adjust. Increase your fluid intake too, because fibre needs to absorb water to work effectively.

Start your day with a high-fibre cereal or whole grain whole wheat toast

  • Choose a breakfast cereal that contains at least 5 g of fibre a serving
  • Add ½ cup of 100 per cent bran cereal to your favourite whole-grain flake cereal
  • Add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or raw wheat bran to oatmeal
  • Purchase bread with at least 2 g to 3 g of fibre a slice

Try different whole grains

  • Experiment with quinoa, brown rice, barley, bulgur and kamut berries; Make sure to follow cooking instructions closely, as cooking time varies

Eat beans three times a week

  • Add lentils to salsa, white kidney beans to pasta sauce, black beans to tacos and chickpeas to whole grain salads.

Include a fresh vegetable and/or fruit with every meal and snack

  • Aim for a minimum of 7 servings per day where one serving is equal to one small piece of fruit; ½ cup fresh, frozen or cooked veggies; or ½ cup of juice
  • Higher fibre fruits and vegetables include apples (with skin), blackberries, blueberries, figs, mangos, pears, prunes and raspberries, snow peas, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant and carrots.
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