The Fiber Fix For A Healthy Gut
Is fiber a nutritional silver bullet? No, but it’s awfully close. “High fiber intake is associated with a 24 to 38 percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared with low fiber intake” says Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
In addition, a high-fiber diet also:
- lowers blood pressure
- decreases cholesterol
- improves blood sugar and insulin levels
- lowers the risk of GI conditions
- aids in weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness
During digestion, non-fibrous carbohydrates are processed quickly, but fiber slows down digestion and lowers insulin levels – both of which keeps your body from making extra fat, especially in your midsection.
How Much Fiber Do We Need A Day?
The average American gets only about half of the recommended 25-35grams of fiber per day. To get there, one should make a point of eating at least one high-fiber meal a day, such as a fiber-dense cereal at breakfast, lentil soup at lunch, or a bean burrito at dinner. Be sure to add whole grains, nuts, beans and fruits or vegetables at other times during the day. The more color on your plate, the better.
A 2018 study found that 10-gram increase in fiber for every 1000 calories consumed corresponded with longer telomeres (a marker of DNA health) and a biological age difference of 4.3 years (younger).
Experts agree that you don’t need to count grams of fiber you are consuming each day. It’s more effective and less tedious to focus on replacing low or no fiber foods with their naturally high-fiber counterparts. For example, swapping out white rice for brown rice, or eating whole carrots instead of sipping on carrot juice.
If you’re mostly consuming fruits, veggies, and nuts, as well as whole grains (think, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, and barley), you won’t have much room for processed low-fiber fare anyway.
What About Fiber-Fortified Foods?
“Some foods like high-fiber bars, ice cream, and yogurt are fortified with isolated fiber which doesn’t provide the same benefits as in the fiber in say, an avocado,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD Health’s contributing nutrition editor.
When you eat naturally occurring fiber rich foods, you get a variety of fibers as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This complexity has a different beneficial impact on the body. That said, an occasional fortified food could help you feel satisfied (and less hungry) later, adds Sass.
Be Sure To Read Labels
When you do eat processed foods, check the label. If it doesn’t have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, set it aside. Likewise, if it’s high in fiber but contains added sugar-as many breakfast cereals and energy bars do-you might want to look for a healthier choice. Scan the ingredients and avoid words ending is –ose-, (designating a type of sugar), any kind of syrup, and evaporated cane juice.
Gradually Increase Fiber Intake
If you decide to increase your fiber intake, due so gradually to avoid triggering gas and bloating. Try increasing your intake by several daily servings (think adding an apple, a slice of whole-grain bread, and a handful of nuts) for one week. Then double the servings the next week, once your gut has had some time to acclimate.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Fiber needs lots of water to move through your system. Drinking caffeine-free beverages can help prevent bloating, cramping, and discomfort.
Healthy High Fiber Snacks For On The Go
- 1 oz. shelled pistachios – 3g fiber
- ½ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries – 4g fiber
- 6 oz. celery sticks with hummus – 11g fiber
- 3 cups of popcorn – 3g fiber
- Half an avocado sliced on 1 whole-grain crispbread cracker – 7g fiber
- 1 cup of raw carrot sticks and broccoli – 4g fiber
Adding a high–fiber snack to grab and go as part of your daily routine will be a habit that will quickly put you on the road to a healthier you.
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!