Hello SOTGC community,
As we near the completion of January 2014, I am guessing that you are feverishly executing those new year’s resolutions, health goals, and weight loss intentions. Determined, ambitious, and armed with a plan, its about getting healthy, from a mind, body, spirit approach. As part of my 2014 plan, I am committing to having more fun, spending more time being creative, and honoring this temple called my body. This morning, while preparing my morning ritual smoothie, I consciously decided to commit to a new and intimate relationship with fiber. We’ve all heard about how great fiber is for us. In this post, I’ll outline for you exactly why fiber should be your new best friend in the kitchen.
Dietary fiber sources come mainly from whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables and can be divided into two main groups: soluble, and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves and forms a gel-like substance. Examples of soluble fiber include psyllium, citrus fruits, apples, barley, oats, peas, and beans.
Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and supports movement of material through the digestive system for healthy, regular bowel movements and can be a remedy for those with constipation. Sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, and green beans. Dietary fiber can sometimes be referred to as ‘roughage’.
Fiber is not digested by the body, it simply passes through the digestive tract, and exits the body.
So why is fiber so important for our bodies when it isn’t even absorbed?
- It normalizes bowel movements and helps with constipation. If you read my previous post on Tips for Starting 2014 Clean and Healthy, my first recommendation is ensuring healthy, daily bowel movements. Its one of the main ways we rid our bodies of toxins. Without regular excretion of toxins, sluggish bowels are a set up for reabsorbing these toxins back into the bloodstream. Do your body a favor, eat fiber, have a bowel movement.
- It maintains a healthy bowel lining and may lower risk of colorectal cancer. Regular intake of fiber alleviates constipation thereby reducing strain, and in turn may lower the risk of diverticular disease (small outpouchings of the colon wall that can be at risk for inflammation or infection) and hemorrhoids. It helps with water absorption, and the transit time thereby facilitating the excretion of toxins.
- It controls appetite and helps maintain healthy weight. High fiber diets are ‘energy dense’. This means that for the same volume of food, there tends to be fewer calories. Taking fiber can increase delay gastric emptying and promote satiety (sense of fullness) and assist with overeating.
- It is cardioprotective. Regular fiber intake can lower cholesterol, and may also assist to lower inflammation and blood pressure.
- It regulates blood sugar levels. For people who are predisposed or have diabetes, soluble fiber can improve blood sugar levels and slow the absorption of sugar. We know that elevated levels of blood sugar can promote inflammation, alter our fat burning metabolism, and indirectly contribute to weight gain.
So how much fiber should we aim for in our diets? The National Cancer Institute recommends 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Other research studies imply that perhaps even higher levels per day may be beneficial. If you shoot for 30gm per day, that will be a major accomplishment as studies have estimated in the United States, the average adult fiber intake is below 10 gm per day.
My tips for achieving the 30gm of fiber per day:
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables in your morning smoothie. When sitting down with a dinner plate, fill 50% of the plate with vegetable fiber source.
- Consider adding a fiber supplement to your regimen. This can be sprinkled over soups, yogurt, or salads. It can also be added to your smoothie. These supplements are often a combination of different types of fiber.
- Fall in love with ground flax seed, chia seeds, beet fiber, pea fiber, and apple pectin. These are all wonderful sources of fiber.
- Remember to combine soluble and insoluble fibers in your diet.
- If you experience flatulence, don’t worry. Go slow, and increase your daily intake gradually.
- If you become constipated while increasing your fiber intake, it’s a sign to drink more water. Fiber intake should improve constipation, not worsen it.
- If you are gluten sensitive or intolerant, be mindful about your fiber sources as some can come from gluten sources.
This is not an exhaustive source of all the wonderful sources of fiber available. I encourage you to have fun, go on the hunt for your favorite fiber sources, and build it into your diet as you see fit. Experience how great you’ll feel by taking care of yourself and your fabulous temple. Fiber it up today.