Getting enough fiber in our diets is often overlooked and underrated when it comes to achieving optimal health. Many of us don’t meet the daily fiber requirements according to the USDA’s national survey data where its recommended women should hit at least 25 grams and men 38 grams! We see advertisements all around (in the grocery store, on TV, in online ads), pushing “high-fiber” messaging, but like many other scenarios in life… if we cannot easily understand HOW something will benefit us and our wellbeing, it is easily ignored.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle & achieving success through the choices we make can be a tough road to navigate especially with all of the new information, trends, and social media influences, etc that have substantial impact on the way we live day-to-day. So if you’re a weight loss novice needing the basics on why you need fiber in your diet or an healthy lifestyle guru that needs a quick refresher…
Heres why we should all be hitting our daily fiber requirements not only to improve health over all but to aid in our weight loss efforts as well. Plus, see some of the best high-fiber foods you can start incorporating into your diet today and some awesome high-fiber recipes to try out this week.
What is dietary fiber?
Fiber is typically a plant-based nutrient that mostly cannot be digested and so passed through the digestive system without being metabolized or converted into calories for energy. It is considered a carbohydrate though not the same as the sugars and starch carbs that breakdown to support cellular activity. Fibers are usually indigestible and are often referred to as roughage. On a molecular level, our bodies produce enzymes to breakdown starches, but with fiber… the structure is so closely banded together that these enzymes cannot penetrate it to begin the digestive process, hence – they simply pass through the gastrointestinal tract – mostly! There are different types of fiber.
The different types of dietary fiber:
When it comes to insoluble fiber, the body simply cannot break it down and so it passes through the digestive system without any nutrient absorption. This type of fiber essentially aids in regulation of the GI tract.
Soluble fiber can be broken down in the gut and has multiple beneficial functions improving overall wellness.
Additionally some types of fibers are considered prebiotics; these too CANNOT be broken down in the digestive tract but help promote gut health.
Health benefits of fiber:
1. Gut Health:
Prebiotics are categorized as fiber, though not all fiber is considered a prebiotic. Prebiotic fibers are resistant to hydrolysis (being broken down in our bodies by additional of water) and therefore being broken down and digested. Where prebiotic fiber is different from insoluble fiber is that it is fermented by the gut microflora and stimulates growth of beneficial gut bacteria ultimately improving health.
2. Improved Energy:
Insoluble fiber in the diet helps to slow absorption of other digestible nutrients therefore allowing a steady flow of energy and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Often times what can happen when we ingest non-fibrous carbohydrates and starches is that these carbs breakdown into sugars. If there is too much sugar in our system all at once, levels of the hormone insulin spike-up, and insulin travels throughout the body to gather-up excess sugar (to normalize blood sugar levels) and turns takes them into fat for later use. This will also spike your energy levels for a short time leading to a quick drop once the high-sugar levels have been normalized – leaving you feeling drained. So not only will ample amounts of fiber help upkeep consistent energy & blood sugar levels to keep you feeling good, but it may help you avoid unwanted weight gain via sugar conversion into fat.
3. Gastrointestinal Regulation:
Not only can prebiotic fiber help your gut microflora, but additionally it can help with digestive regulation. Due to the fact that Insoluble fiber cannot be broken down, when it passes through your digestive tract it creates bulk which helps gastrointestinal muscles push any other waste through the body. This is why fiber is ideal for those suffering from constipation or irregularity.
On the flip-side, too much fiber can cause stomach discomfort such a bloating, gas, cramping and coincidently constipation. This happens when there is too much bulk and the digestive system has trouble moving the bulk through. To top it off, too much fiber can reduce nutrient absorption resulting in malnutrition so it’s best to follow the daily recommending intake.
- Women – at least 25 grams per day
- Men – at least 38 grams per day
4. Fiber helps with weight loss and keeps you fuller longer:
Because fiber helps to reduce and slow absorption of other nutrients in the gut, the steady supply of calories may help with satiety and lower caloric intake – two common components of successful weight loss.
10 Best high fiber foods:
- Chia Seeds – 34 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Ground Flax Seed – 27 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Popcorn – 14 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Almonds – 13 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dark Chocolate (70-85% cacao) – 11 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Oats – 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Lentils – 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Avocados – 6.7 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Raspberries – 6.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Artichokes – 5 grams of fiber in 100 grams
3 high fiber recipes for weight loss:
1. Raspberry Vanilla Chia Pudding:
- 1/2 cup red raspberries
- 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 dropperful SweetLeaf vanilla creme stevia
- Combine chia seeds, almond milk, and stevia in bowl
- Place in refrigerator 4 hours (or overnight)
- Stir in raspberries
Calories: 273kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 299mg | Potassium: 173mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 9g | Calcium: 493mg | Iron: 3mg
2. Broiled Artichokes with Pesto Aioli
- 2 artichokes
- 1 onion minced
- 1 carrot sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- pink salt to taste
- Clean and trim artichokes
- Boil artichokes, onion, carrot, and garlic about 45 minutes
- Drain veggies
- Slice artichokes in half
- Transfer veggies to cast iron skillet and add butter and pink salt
- Broil in oven about 5 minutes
- Turn artichokes and broil another 5 minutes
- NOTE: Excellent served with Pesto Aioli
Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 122mg | Potassium: 338mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2723IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg
3. Pumpkin Flax “Oatmeal”
- 2 tbsp flax meal
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 3/4 cup egg whites
- 3 tbsp pumpkin puree
- 1.25 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Stevia, to taste
- Place flax meal, milk, egg whites, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small sauce pan on medium heat
- Use a whisk to combine and continue to whisk until mixture thickens, approximately 5-7 minutes
- Once mixture is near desired thickness, add vanilla and Stevia
- Pour into your bowl and sprinkle a little additional cinnamon over the top
- If you would like, add desired toppings such as: chopped nuts, nut butter, vanilla Greek yogurt, chopped apple, slicked banana, a few chocolate chips, etc.
Calories: 263kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 474mg | Potassium: 557mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 7005IU | Vitamin C: 1.9mg | Calcium: 260mg | Iron: 2.1mg
Incorporating fiber into our daily healthy routines, is a key health factor often over looked but shouldn’t be! Fiber is extremely beneficial and necessary for optimal health; it provides many benefits including but not limited to regulation of the GI tract, it helps to normalize blood sugar levels improving energy, slows down digestion in the gut increasing satiety keeping your feeling fuller for longer, and it can help encourage a healthy gut microflora.
You can easily up fiber intake by including more high-fiber fruits, veggies, etc.! Actively incorporate high fiber foods from the list above or from your own research on a daily basis and pay attention to how your health improves. Hitting the recommended daily intake of fiber is important, but remember TOO much fiber can cause issues as well; too much fiber lies along the lines of 70+ grams or more in a day. The average person typically hits about 16 grams a day, so this isn’t something that should worry you each day – just keep it in mind.
Start upping your fiber intake this week when you try one of the recipes listed above or reach out to one of our WLD wellness coaches to see how you can implement a more nutritious healthy routine into your lifestyle!