This one nutrient can reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and help you lose weight. You’re already eating it— you’re just not eating enough of it.
The world seems to be hyper-focused on upping protein levels to match those of Olympic competitors and Body Builders, and has completely turned a blind eye to what actually helps people lose weight and stave off disease: fiber has become the most under-valued nutrient in America today. Studies are showing that Americans only meet 3% of their recommended 30-35 grams of daily fiber, less than 10 grams each day. That’s not enough to combat the epidemics of diabetes, obesity and increasing cancer rates across the country.
So how does fiber work?
There are two types of fiber, and both are essential to keeping your gastro-intestinal system in top shape (aka, no more constipation or diarrhea), keeping your weight down, and preventing disease. One acts to absorb water and harmful additives in your food, while the other scrubs out and flushes the contents from your system. Both simultaneously deliver valuable nutrients that your body absorbs while it attempts to digest these foods.
Soluble fiber slows digestion and helps you absorb nutrients from food. This kind of fiber is great for decreasing your appetite, making you feel full longer throughout the day. It attracts water and turns to gel within your gut, typical of steel cut oatmeal, or chia seeds.
From within your digestive system, soluble fiber will also attach itself to cholesterol particles. As you digest, the cholesterol is removed from your body, helping you reduce your overall cholesterol levels, and your risk of heart disease. Because soluble fiber isn’t well absorbed by your body, it doesn’t contribute to diabetes and will actually help you with weight loss.
Soluble fiber includes legumes, oats, rice bran, barley, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, psyllium husks, brussel sprouts, black beans, avocados, citrus fruits, broccoli, turnips, figs, plums/prunes, apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, peas, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Insoluble fiber helps your stool pass more quickly through the intestines, also attracting water and adding bulk. When people say that “eating too many vegetables makes them poop,” its because they’ve shocked their system with too many insoluble fibers, and not enough soluble fibers to balance out the equation.
Insoluble fiber includes whole grains, wheat and corn bran, figs, plums/prunes, dark leafy vegetables (kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens, radicchio, dandelion greens), fruits, nuts, seeds, root vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, popcorn, onions, the skins of fruits & vegetables.
So How to Get More Fiber?
No doubt, you’re already eating many of these fiber sources every day… you’re just not eating enough! Many people think that because they choked down a spinach salad at lunch, or a few pieces of cheese-drenched broccoli at dinner that they’re meeting their quota of daily vegetables, but that’s sadly far from true. One cup of raw spinach only has about 1.2 grams of fiber…. not nearly enough to meet your daily goal of 35 grams!
Even your morning celery juice or Green Machine smoothie isn’t helping you get to your goal any faster, especially if you’re straining out the pulp, or not including the stems of your kale. More likely, you’re adding in way too much fruit to your smoothie anyway to help you lose weight and fight disease, but that’s a different article.
To dramatically increase the amount of fiber you’re consuming every day, all you need to do is sprinkle more of the good stuff on as many meals and snacks as possible.
For example, over your morning cereal, add a few berries or figs, some pistachios, and a teaspoon of both chia seeds and flaxseed. Boom! You’ve probably reached 10 grams of fiber right there, automatically making you above the average American in fiber consumption!
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With your pre- and post-lunch snacks, add a handful of seeds or nuts (try some roasted goard seeds, like pumpkin, butternut squash, or spaghetti squash), and a banana.
Add more flax and chia seeds to your salads, and pastas, and double up on the greens or add bell peppers to your sandwiches. Also, include the stems of your kale into your meals— chopping up a tough stem and sautéing it can add a nice crunch similar to celery or carrots.
If you aim for your daily fiber goals to be 30-35 grams, you’re more likely to lose weight and prevent disease than the average person. Even if you only make it to 20 grams of fiber each day, you’re winning with a healthy amount of roughage to keep your body functioning properly.