In yesterday’s post, we talked about the mighty chia and how one ounce of this power-house seed can give you 42% of your daily fiber intake. But just in case you’re not on the fiber train, let’s review the benefits of fiber so you can fully understand how vital it is for a healthy diet. I know this sounds riveting, but stay with me! It’ll be worth it, I promise.
To start off, it’s important to know that there are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. What the heck does that even mean?! Good question. Soluble fiber turns into gasses in your digestive tract while insoluble fiber absorbs water as it moves through your system, easing defecation.
Oh right — I should now give you the warning: there will be poop talk ahead.
Let’s Talk Fiber!
- Soluble fiber helps bind fecal contents in your gut, including bad bile acids, and can reduce cholesterol.
Domestica Version: Just like the hoodlums who loiter in dark corners and leave graffiti tags in their place, bile acid loiters around in your digestive tract leaving pockets of acidity that are ripe for trouble. The soluble fiber police come and scrape them away because hey, no one wants bowel graffiti.
- Insoluble fiber helps you have regular bowel movements and eliminates harmful toxins in your digestive tract.
Domestica Version: Most good and bad bacterias are chillin’ in the bowels. Not having regular bowel movements lets the bad bacteria stick around for too long and gives them more time to multiply which can create a breeding ground for sickness and disease. Insoluble fibers are like the parents who come home early and shut the house party down — but in your gut.
- Fiber slows down your digestion, which helps moderate the rise of blood sugar after eating a meal.
Domestica Version: Fiber takes longer to break down so not only does it keep your metabolism working for longer, it also prevents sugar crashes by releasing energy slowly, and keeps you full for longer. Bonus!
Have I convinced you to join the fiber club? If so, I should take a moment to caution you that not all fibers are created equal.
Food companies have jumped on the fiber train too, recognizing that consumers are getting more health-minded. But in yet another example of their marketing prowess, many of these “fiber-rich” foods are enriched with isolated fibers rather than the intact fiber you get from say, a cup of oats. This includes even some of the “healthy” products you may buy and trust, like Kashi Go Lean Cereals (which uses chicory root as an isolated fiber). This is note-worthy because there’s a real lack of evidence to prove that isolated fibers react the same as traditional intact fiber. For more on these “fake fibers”, I recommend you read this brief article over at Fiber is the Future, authored by Registered Dietitian Katie Clark, MPH, RD, CDE.
Geesh! Are you starting to understand why the incredible fiber content in an ounce of chia seeds is such a big deal?!?! I think this is one more reason I love a whole foods, plant-based diet…it just gets so complicated when you start adding man-made foods into the mix.
Other than chia seeds, my go-to fiber trick is adding ground flaxseeds to my smoothies, granolas, yogurts, and oatmeals. Each 2 tbsp serving gives me 16% of my daily fiber intake.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Now, I should warn you of one other thing. Just like any friend can push your buttons and suddenly go from BFF to frenemy, sometimes too much fiber can have unpleasant side effects. Namely, bloating and flatulence (wow, isn’t this post delightful?!). And oddly enough, these are also the symptoms you can experience from not having enough fiber in your diet.
If you find that increasing your fiber intake produces discomfort, try drinking more water. You can also take a tip from Tosca Reno and drink 2 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in a glass of water before every meal. The creator of the Eat Clean Diet, Tosca swears this new habit took all her fiber-related stomach problems away and got rid of her bloating. Straight-up ACV is pretty strong stuff so make sure you dilute it in a large glass of water!
Make It Happen
Now that we’ve got all the nasty business out of the way, here are some simple ways to increase your fiber intake, according to the Harvard School of Public Health:
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
- Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
- Choose whole grain cereals for breakfast.
- Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
- Substitute legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.
- Experiment with international dishes (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and legumes as part of the main meal (as in Indian dahls) or in salads (for example, tabbouleh).