Although fiber is most well-known for keeping your digestive system rolling smooth, the benefits don’t stop there! Additional benefits include:
- Slows stomach emptying: This suppresses a hormone called ghrelin — a hormones that triggers hunger — resulting in you maintaining a sense of fullness for longer
- Balances blood sugar: Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, meaning it slows down the breakdown of foods into glucose. Balanced blood sugar not only means fewer high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) but also fewer lows (hypoglycmeia)
- Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol: Since fiber is not broken down in the intestine, a specific type of fiber, called soluble fiber (well get more into this) can bind to LDL cholesterol and remove it from the body. In addition, this study found that an intake of 30 grams or more per day may be helpful in increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol
- Promotes healthy gut microbiome: Did you know that fiber is the food for our gut microbiome?! Without not only enough fiber, but a variety of different fiberous foods, our microbes will not have sufficient nutrients to thrive, resulting in “a loss of species reliant on these substrates”. This disruption could lead to a host of diseases. In fact, long-term studies consistently show an inverse relationship between dietary fiber intake and all-cause mortality!
Nowadays, the average intake for women is 12-13 grams per day, while men average 16-17 grams. This is wayyy to low! And likely a large contributor to the high rates of colon cancer and why the majority of my patients experience only a few bunny-like bowel movements per week.
On the other hand, a healthy bowel movement is well-formed and comes without a struggle (you know what I’m talking about). You should have a bowel movement at least once per day — if none of this sounds familiar, this is a sign you are not eliminating properly — keep reading.
For adults, I recommend aiming for at least 45-50 grams per day. Interestingly, this study demonstrated that switching African Americans to a traditional South African diet including 55 grams of fiber measurably improved markers of colon cancer in just 2 weeks!
types of fiber
Insoluble: This type of fiber is not dissolved by water or gastrointestinal fluids. This allows it to move through your GI tract largely unchanged. It adds bulk to the stool, helping it to move through the intestines more quickly. Benefits include weight loss and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. It also helps ease constipation.
Soluble: This type IS dissolved by water and GI fluids when it enters intestines. There it turns into a gel -like substance that is fermented by microflora in the large intestine. This promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. Soluble fiber helps also lowers LDL cholesterol, lowers blood sugar, and helps you feel full longer.
Amylose (aka resistant starch): This form is a type of starch rather than fiber, but I wanted to include it as it as well is associated with a host of benefits! Amylose resists digestion. It moves though the small intestine, largely unabsorbed, and is then fermented in the large intestine. This creates short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which stimulate blood flow, boost nutrient circulation, prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, help with mineral absorption and prevent absorption of toxins — I mean woahh. In addition, buyterate, another byproduct produced, encourages fat burning and has anti-cancer properties. You can see how this group is vital for health. Sources include green bananas, and cooled potatoes and rice.
ways to increase your intake
When increasing your fiber intake it is vital to increase it slowly over several days to avoid experiencing GI discomfort and constipation. Aim to increase by 5 gram increments. As you increase your fiber, be sure to also drink more water between meals as well.
Highest Fiber Foods
|Food||Total Fiber||Soluble Fiber|
|Beans/lentils||10-16 grams per cup||2-7 grams|
|Artichokes||7 grams per artichoke||4 grams|
|Blackberries||4 grams per 1/2 cup||3 grams|
|Avocado||13.5 per avocado||4 grams|
|Chia seeds||5.5 grams per Tbs||1 gram|
|Quinoa||8 grams per cup (cooked)||4 grams|
|Brussel sprouts||4 grams per cup||2 grams|
|Broccoli||5.6 grams per cup||2.6 grams|
|Steel cut oats||5 grams per 1/4 cup||2 grams|
Tips to increase intake
- Salads: Load them up! When I make salads it is usually to use up all any left over vegetables I want to get rid of. Also, if you are still using iceberg lettuce — ditch it and upgrade to spinach, kale, romaine, or virtually any other dark leafy green. Iceberg has minimal nutritional value and 0.1 gram of fiber per leaf…
- Start your day with a smoothie: Starting your day with a high fiber smoothie will keep your full and stabilize your blood sugar throughout the morning. See below for a recipe I have recently been using:
- Eat a non-starchy vegetable with EVERY meal: I always tell my patients to start where they’re at. If you eat 1 vegetable per day, make it your goal to eat 2 serving per day. Refer to my Zucchini and Tomato Frittata Recipe for a fun way to include them at breakfast.
- Buy a high quality fiber powder: Some of the best types are inulin (made from artichokes), psyllium, apple pectin, or modified citrus pectin. Add this to your morning coffee, water, soups, and smoothies! I recommend choosing an organic option if possible.
High fiber smoothie
1-2 scoops protein powder (high quality, no fillers or artificial sweeteners)
1-2 tablespoons fiber (chia seeds, hemp seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, fiber powder)
1/2-1 cup frozen berries
large handful spinach
1 cup liquid (water, unsweetened coconut or almond milk)
Want to start meal prepping? Check out my Meal Prepping Made Simple Guide to get you started!
How are you going to start increasing your fiber intake? Share below!