What’s the first thing you think of when you’re told you should increase your fiber intake? It’s probably, “that means I’m going to go to the bathroom more” and you’re either excited about that or you’re not. Well, you should absolutely be excited about that! Fibre plays such a huge role in keeping our bodies healthy and digestive system happy. I feel like it’s not really talked about how important it is for so many functions because of what’s associated with it (but I have no problem talking about what you need to help you poop more), so here we’re going to talk about-
different types of fiber
the benefits of both types
how it helps with weight loss
how to increase your intake
easy sources you can get
First of all, what is fiber? Fiber is essentially roughage- it’s a vegetable tissue found in plants that is resistant to our digestive enzymes, therefore can’t be digested but it still SO important and without adequate amounts, we can develop a lot of issues.
There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water in our digestive tracts and becomes gel like. Insoluble fiber stays intact the whole way through. We need a balance of both and more of one or the other isn’t helpful.
Like I said above, soluble fiber will absorb water and become a gel like consistency. This is helpful because it pulls toxins and waste out smoothly. We also need this to help with blood sugar balance. It slows down glucose absorption into our cells which ultimately reduces a blood sugar spike. Both kind help to keep us full longer but soluble fiber slows down absorption of nutrients and passage of food which is going to keep you full longer and energy stable.
Insoluble fiber is helpful for feeding the good bacteria in our gut (which we could all use more of). Why are good bacteria so important? The simplest way I can put it without going on a long rant is a good microbiome is beneficial for literally everything- digestion, absorption, blood sugar balance, energy, mood, hormones, the list goes on. That’s a whole other post we could dive into. Insoluble fiber is what adds bulk to our waste, making it easier to pass and be regular. This addition of bulk is what stimulates peristalsis. Have no idea what that word means? It’s just a fancy word for muscle contractions in the motion of waves that move food along our intestinal tract, which as you can imagine is pretty important or else waste just gets stuck in our colon and causes constipation.
Too much of a good thing doesn’t necessarily benefit us anymore than a moderate amount of it would. With fibre, we need a balance of both insoluble and soluble. Too much of one or the other can either cause constipation or loose stools.
An excess of soluble fiber can cause dehydration by its ability to pull water away from the gut which ultimately reduces absorption as well, meaning our cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function. Too much insoluble fiber can irritate the gut. Think of a rake and leaves. It basically “scratches” our gut lining which can cause inflammation and allow other issues to arise. Adding too much bulk can cause constipation, which is also an issue because then toxins are just sitting in our colon possibly being re-absorbed.
Consuming a balance of these two can do great things for our digestive systems. Toxins get removed from the soluble fiber (gel like substance pulling toxins out), insoluble fiber speeds up peristalsis with speeds up elimination that would otherwise be stuck in the colon. With these two you get regularity, prevention of constipation, balanced pH and help with good gut bacteria.
Fiber and Weight loss
Don’t go running out to your nearest health food store and buy whatever fiber supplement they can thinking you’re going to drop 10 pounds in 3 days. That would be nice in some cases, but not how the body works. Fiber is going to keep you full longer without the calories due to the fact that it does not get digested. A big reason why its helpful is its ability to reduce the amount of carbs your body actually gets. These are called net carbs. For example, if something has 12 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber, you’re really only getting 7 grams of carbs. Magical, right?!
Everyone is different and has different needs, but as a general recommendation, women need 25 grams of fiber daily and men need 38 grams. Those numbers may sound high, but it’s pretty simple to increase your intake. Cut out simple carbs and replace them with complex carbs (oats, sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa). These contain more fiber and more nutrients. Try to include one source of each at every meal. There’s so much variety that you won’t get bored of it. Here are some food sources of each;
- nuts - broccoli
- beans - lentils
- peas - psyllium husk
- barley - oat bran
- dates - oats
- pears - apples
- seeds - spinach
- figs - oranges
- fruit and vegetable skins
- whole grains
- wheat bran
- kidney beans
- pinto beans
- flax seeds
One important tip you must remember when increasing your fiber is to increase your water intake as well. Your body has to adjust to the increase and the extra you’re eating is going to absorb water, so your body will need extra water to account for that. If you don’t drink extra water, you can become very constipated and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish!
Now that you have all the tips and tricks to increasing fiber and why it’s important, try it out and see how you feel! Your digestive system will thank you.