Let me just highlight a huge dietary mistake many of us make: we don’t eat enough fiber! Making one simple change to your diet could add a host of health benefits – however, the average person only consumes around 16g per day. Shocking!
Why is this a problem? Well, read on for some much needed education:
Dietary fiber occurs naturally in many foods of plant origin, and is not digested by enzymes in the gut. For this reason, it usually passes through the intestines rather unchanged.
FIBER = consists of non-starch polysaccharides
cellulose, dextrins, lignin, chitins, waxes, inulin, beta glucans, oligosaccharides
There are two types of fiber:
TYPE 1) SOLUBLE FIBER
This kind of fiber dissolves in water, and forms a gel in the bowels.
- grains like barley, oats and rye
- beans and pulses
- root vegetables
TYPE 2) INSOLUBLE FIBER
This kind of fiber does not dissolve in water.
- cereals like bran flakes
- wholegrain foods like breads, rice and pasta
- vegetables with skin
- nuts and seeds
Adding fiber to your diet may help you to lose weight for a few different reasons.
Promotes satiety: Fiber absorbs water in the stomach, making you feel fuller quicker, which makes you less likely to overeat.
Lower in calories: For the same volume of food, high fiber foods are less energy dense – making them lower in calories.
Make you eat slower: Another positive attribute, is that they usually take longer to eat – and eating slower makes you less likely to overeat because your brain realizes that you’re full. Win-win!
HEALTHY BOWEL MOVEMENTS
Together, the two types of fiber work to prevent and treat constipation:
First, insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools – which is especially good if you have loose watery stools. Furthermore, it makes the waste travel through the gut quicker.
Second, soluble fiber facilitates the process by softening the stools – making them pass through the gut easier.
IMPROVES GUT HEALTH
Let us not underestimate the influence our gut has on our overall well being – it has even been called our second brain! This is because there are around 10 times more bacteria in our bodies than human cells. Surprising? I’m sure it is! So it makes sense that we would much rather want good bacteria in our bodies than bad bacteria. Good bacteria keeps our gut healthy by, among other things – keeping pathogenic (harmful) bacteria under control. Some fiber is fermented by beneficial bacteria, serving as food for them and thereby allowing them to thrive. Furthermore, adding fiber to your diet can reduce your risk for developing hemorrhoids = painful/itchy/bleeding masses of swollen tissues.
REDUCED RISK OF DISEASE
This is a biggie! And probably one of the most important benefits. However, further research is needed to confirm these claims…
Fiber lowers cholesterol – A study published in the Nutrition Journal showed that 6g of concentrated beta-glucan per day for six weeks significantly decreased the total low-density lipoprotein (LDL/bad) cholesterol in people that suffered from high cholesterol.
Fiber controls blood sugar – Research has showed that soluble fiber, that binds with fatty acids, decreases the rate of stomach emptying and slows sugar absorption in the bloodstream – thereby lowering the insulin response. In this way, adding fiber to your diet could reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Fiber protects against colorectal cancer – This is believed to be linked to the fact that fiber facilitates the effective removal of toxins from waste, and also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria that fight pathogens in the gut.
A Study in Amals of Internal Medicine
240 People were randomly assigned to one of two diets:
1) AHA Diet (American Heart Assosiation)
decreased calorie intake to lose weight
limit saturated fat intake
High Fibre Diet
Only had to increase fiber intake
Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains
At least 30g fibre per day
* All participants showed signs of prediabetes.
* The two groups made no changes in their exercise habits.
After 1 year:
Both groups lost roughly the same amount of weight
Both groups showed similar decrease in cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammation, and blood pressure.
Conclusion: By only adding fiber to their diets, group 2 improved their health by losing weight and reducing markers for metabolic syndrome.
A study showed that adding fiber to your diet could make you age better. Meaning: you would reach an old age free of disability, depression, dementia, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases.
Sound great? Read on for more information:
The study: A paper published in the Journal of Gerontology by researchers at Westmead Institute in New South Wales, Australia
The study investigated a link between carbohydrate intake and successful ageing.
The data: 1609 adults over the age of 49 were followed for 10 years. These participants were all disease-free at the beginning of the study.
Factors analyzed: total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic load, glycemic index, sugar intake.
15.5% of participants reached a healthy age – disease-free.
Results showed that of all the factors examined – fiber made the greatest impact.
[Researchers were surprised that sugar wasn’t the greatest influencer. However, it was noted that the study participants did not consume large amounts of carbonated sugary drinks.]
Participants with highest fiber intake had an up to 80% greater chance of successful ageing = free of disease and disability.
Some great evidence here! However, more research is needed for a more in-depth investigation of the precise the mechanisms.
Women need 25g per day!
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Struggling to reach that goal? Here are some tips to increase fiber intake:
- Eat a high fibre breakfast cereal that contains at least 5g per serving.
- Add a tablespoon or two of wheat bran to cereal.
- Replace white bread with wholewheat/wholegrain bread.
- Replace white pasta with wholewheat pasta, brown rice, or barley.
- Eat potatoes with the skin.
- Eat snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, popcorn, nut butters.
- Add beans and other legumes like lentils to stews and soups.
- Have fruit for dessert.
- Eat plenty of salad or vegetables with meals.
- Substitute half the white flour in a baking recipe for wholewheat flour or oats.
- Puree cooked vegetables and add them to soups, stews and sauces.
Here is an example of a high-fiber day:
Take NOTE: Increase fiber intake gradually over a couple of weeks to allow gut bacteria to adjust. Increasing too quickly can result in gas, bloating, and cramping.
After all that, I hope I’ve given you the information you needed to make sure you fulfill your fiber requirements. And if not, please feel free to ask away below…