Have you been struggling to manage your weight, or control your cholesterol levels, or keep your blood sugar levels in check? One major factor of your diet you may have overlooked is your fiber intake. Fiber has a myriad of benefits for your overall health and adding more to your diet may provide a great boost to your wellbeing.
Since I specialize in digestive and metabolic health, I know how vitally important fiber intake is and how simple it is to add more to your day’s intake. Yet, when I look at clients’ food intake journals, I consistently find low fiber intake. When I ask them about why, they tell me they didn’t realize it was low, especially if they are “regular”.
So, what are the recommendations? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25-35 g of fiber a day for adults. (1) Most people get less than half that amount daily.
What is fiber?
Fiber only comes from plants, like veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. There are 2 types that you get from these foods—soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water forming a gel that acts like a sponge to absorb excess substances in the digestive tract.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and acts like a broom, facilitating
movement of food through the digestive tract. Read on…
Over the last 20-25 years, studies have shown many more important reasons to consume fiber beyond healthy bowel regularity.
Why do I need fiber?
Here’s a list of benefits that higher fiber intake provides:
Feeds good bacteria in your gut so they grow and thrive and “crowd out the bad bacteria” to balance the microbiome.
Helps control blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which your body converts carbohydrates into sugar which can decrease the risk of diabetes (or gives better control of it if you already have it).
Helps control cholesterol by binding to excess cholesterol in your blood stream and escorting it out of the body via elimination.
Excess hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, also bind with fiber and leave the body via elimination.
Helps lower blood pressure (2)
May reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and certain other cancers
Helps fill you up (satiety) so you may eat less, thus aiding in weight management.
All-Natural detox. As mentioned above, soluble fiber absorbs possible harmful substances before they can be absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber keeps waste “movin’ on down the line”. Known as ‘transit time’, the less time these substances are in your body, the less time they have to do damage.
Where do I get fiber?
Consuming plant-based foods is the natural way (and delicious) to get daily fiber. This doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian (although, there’s many types) but consuming ~70% from plant sources is a healthy goal to work towards.
Vegetables, on average, contain 3-6 grams of fiber per serving (about a 1/2 c)
Beans, that is legumes, contain 12-15 grams of fiber per serving (about a 1 c)
Nuts and Seeds, on average, contain 2-4 grams of fiber per ounce (about a ¼ c)
Whole grain foods, on average, contain 2-6 grams of fiber per ounce (about a 1 c)
Fruits, on average, contain 3-6 grams of fiber per serving (about a 1/2 c)
So just by including 1-2 servings each from each of the categories a day, you’ll get to your goal.
Some important tips:
Water, Water! Fiber requires water in the digestive tract to work together to soak up substances and move them out. A good formula for how much water to drink; divide your body weight in half and that’s the number of ounces of water you need each day. (eg: if you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink 50 ounces of water a day)
If you are on the low side of fiber consumption (10-15 g) and want to aim for 25-35g/day, make sure to add in gradually. Too much at once can cause gas and bloating. Build up to your goal each week.
A word about fiber supplements. Some people have certain medical conditions that make it difficult to eat enough fiber, so a fiber supplement may be indicated. Plus, most studies have looked at the benefits of fiber from food intake instead of supplements.
Here’s a simple recipe for a delicious veggie soup to get more fiber. Since Fall is here, it will keep you warm too. You can use any veggies but these are the ones I used.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 Cloves garlic, minced or use garlic press Or use 1 tsp. powdered garlic
8 cup Chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Half a head of Cauliflower florets
Half of a sweet potato, diced
2-3 cups of Kale or Swiss Chard or Spinach, chopped
2 cups of Carrots or Parsnips,
1-2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
Sauté the onion and garlic on medium heat for 2 min. Add the broth with other veggies. Cook until the veggies are soft or to your liking. (I like mine to be slightly crunchy). This batch will make 6-8 servings and will keep in the fridge for 4 days.
If this is too much chopping for you, feel free to use 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies ( your choice).
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