If there was just one simple tip to feeling great this summer, losing belly fat, reducing your risk of disease while feeling fabulous would you want to know about it? If you answered yes, I have a treat for you.
What is it you ask? Eat more fiber! Now I know it is not the most sexy or glamorous of topics but an effective one nonetheless. If we all simply had a magic prescription for fiber most of us would drastically improve our overall health. Additionally, we could save a boatload of money in healthcare costs. One Canadian study found that the Canadian Government could save up to $31.9 million in Canadian dollars just by increasing fiber in people’s diets to reduce overall constipation rates.1 Told you this wasn’t sexy, but very much pertinent to our life and society.
Many times when you hear of people adding fiber to their diets you think of adding whole grains, fiber supplements, drinking chalky flavored fiber drinks or eating fiber-fortified foods. Not the most appealing but there is a better solution. I will show you how below. I am all about eating whole foods and foods without wrappers.
I have friends and clients ask me frequently, “What is the one thing I can do to improve my diet and health?” I overwhelmingly tell the to add fiber to their diet. If you have a fairly healthy gut and normal functioning GI (gastro-intestinal) system then your aim is to eat 40 grams of fiber a day. Below you can see a sample 7-day meal plan where everything is already done for you so you can start your own fiber focus and work towards feeling great.
But when I say 40 grams of fiber do the glazed donuts from breakfast take over a glazed look on your face? I’m hoping you are not a typical American because sadly, most Americans only get about 13 grams each day. Only about 5% of the population even hit the fiber intake recommendation.2 Chances are you could use some help in this department and I want to provide that for you.
Many people immediately think that they cannot add that much fiber to their diet or that everything will be like tree bark. You could go that route but it is much easier than you may think and the food can be tasty. But heed this warning…Don’t go from almost no fiber to overnight 40+ grams per day. Your digestive system will probably not like you and you may be very uncomfortable. Increase fiber by about 5 grams each day. Pace yourself properly and it will only take a week to get where you need to be. Also remember to add lots of water intake as you increase the fiber.
Easy foods to add 5 grams of fiber a day (from USDA Food Composition Databases)
1 c Broccoli cooked ¼ c Almonds
1 ¼ c Brussels Sprouts cooked 1 Artichoke
¼ Head Cabbage cooked 1 c Carrots cooked
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds 1 oz Coconut dried
½ c Kidney/Lima/Navy Beans 2/3 c Raspberries
Why do we even need fiber?
Multiple research studies to support fiber as a good thing in your diet have been conducted. The Archives of Cardiovascular Disease published a January 2016 meta-analysis found that diets high in fiber was associated with reduced risk of dying from both cardiovascular disease and cancers.3 Fiber has also been found to be helpful with GI regulation, weight management, insulin control, reducing risk of strokes and heart disease as well as help with hormone regulation.
What is fiber anyway and what does it do?
Fiber is found in food that is derived from plants that our body is unable to digest. There are 2 types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both forms of fiber are needed to have optimal digestion and, in my opinion, optimal health.
Soluble fiber pulls water from within our GI tract (this is the reason that you need to ensure adequate water intake when adding fiber to your diet) and forms a gel that decreases the speed which food moves through your gut so that nutrients can be absorbed. It does a person’s body no good to eat great food if they are unable to get the goodness Mother Nature put into the food into their cells.
Insoluble fiber, found in the peels of fruits and vegetables and in seeds, actually helps speed food passing through our stomach and gives bulk to help form our stool (yeah, that would be poop). I warned you this was not a glamorous topic.
Fiber helps with the elimination of toxins, unused sex hormones and overall waste from our body by pulling them into the gut and forming them into the stool you poo. Think of not flushing the toilet for a few days. Pretty gross, isn’t it? Well, when you don’t poo that is kinda what is hanging out in your gut! Makes pooing seem a bit more important, doesn’t it? So think of fiber as the handle on your toilet that helps flush away some bad things from your body.
Without fiber you would not have poo that makes you proud. If you tend to have messy stools or stools that are really hard to evacuate then you probably have a fiber opportunity. The goal of your poo is to have a nice, easy to push out turd. And it should not take you multiple chapters of a book to get your business done. So, another advantage of fiber is actually a time saver. Instead of spending half an hour on the throne, you could be cutting up veggies for your next meal! Of course, only after having washed your hands well (sorry the mom and nurse in me had to add that).
How do you add more whole food fiber?
Click this link for the 7-Day Fiber Focus Meal Plan that has already calculated the needed fiber for you and get the plan sent to your email address. I even provide a shopping list for you to help get you started.
You may ask, “Can’t I just take fiber supplements and be good?” You could but typically those supplements only give you one form of fiber and you need both, remember?
A recent clinical study found that fiber supplements don’t provide the health benefits associated with fiber from whole foods.4 You are much better off with eating vegetables and fruit. Plus, you will find that the more whole food you eat, the more you actually want it. Our bodies are amazing. When you start giving it the optimal nutrients and cherish the vessel that carries you throughout your day, the better your overall health will be.
Here’s to Hope and Healing with Whole Foods!
Click here to get the 7-Day Fiber Focus Meal Plan!