We’ve all heard it before, right; the importance and benefits of fiber and making sure we get it into our daily diets. Our doctors tell us how important fiber is, how we need to eat more of it, but how many of us just shrug it off as if it’s not that important or maybe believe that we’re getting all the daily fiber we need because we eat salads, fruits, and cereal or bread with “X” number of grams included? Truth is, many of us aren’t getting nearly the amount of fiber we need on a daily basis.
And let me share with you that fiber is more than just making sure bowel movements are easier to pass. In addition to normal bowel movements and healthier bowels, fiber has been shown to create a healthy microbiome thereby helping to reduce cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels, achieve and maintain healthy weight, and may even help you live longer. Fiber from whole-food plant sources is very effective at improving insulin sensitivity and lowering glucose metabolism.
As we age, many of us gain weight without even trying; it seems that just looking at food can put the pounds on. But did you know that eating more fiber is one of the single most effective things we can do to lose weight? Plants are also the sole source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which have been shown to be anti-inflammatory. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help contribute to lower glucose levels and help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Examples of foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, and blueberries. In contrast to soluble fiber, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. However, it does help food move through your digestive system thereby contributing to regularity and helping to prevent constipation. Foods containing insoluble fiber include whole grain couscous, quinoa, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers, nuts and tomatoes. When inflammation is in the “normal” range, it can help fight off infections and injuries; however, many Americans suffer from chronic or systemic inflammation causing weight gain, disease, brain fog, pain, cancer and more. But, when we eat foods high in fiber, i.e., plants and vegetables, our body gets into a more alkaline state thereby helping to stave off illness and injuries.
Think about all the fast food beckoning us each and every day on our way to work, on our way home, or out running errands. When we choose to eat fast food, drink sugary drinks, or eat foods out of box or frozen section of our grocery stores, we are creating an opportunity to cause chaos in our gut and damaging our microbiome. They contain bad fats, refined sugars and excess amounts of salt. Additionally, studies have shown these types of foods can create addiction and are nowhere near what our gut and bodies need to perform at its peak. Fast food and sugary drinks create a less than healthy microbiome leaving the gate open for leaky gut thereby creating the opportunity for serious disease and illness. One other item to note…these foods do nothing to maintain a healthy brain but instead are more like contaminants. According to Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai in their book, “The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution: The Definitive Food and Lifestyle Guide to Preventing Cognitive Decline”, “Nearly six million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States alone, and that number is increasing. And that’s not even the worst of it. In the general population, brain function is going downhill even without that debilitating disease. Concentration, memory, focus, creativity, and productivity-all these are suffering as our brains struggle to keep up with the demands we place on them. There are also related issues, such as the rise in other dementias and stroke, as well as depression and anxiety-something a whopping 17.3 million people in the United States struggle with.” I’ll be writing more about brain and cognitive health in future blogs.
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, aka as “The Gut Health Doctor” recommends eating 30 different fruits and vegetables per week. That may seem like a lot but eating one cup of raspberries alone contains 8 grams of fiber and one cup of split peas contains 16.3 grams. Addtionally, certain herbs and teas can count toward your fiber intake as well. Dr. Bulsiewicz says, “Discard all (or most) of what you’ve ever learned about metabolism, diabetes, and weight loss. It’s a loss of diversity in the gut microbiota, an increase in pathogenic bacteria, and low-grade inflammation from bacterial endotoxin that is associated with diabetes, weight gain and obesity." Eating more fiber can dramatically help from having to take certain medications or at the very least, decrease the amount of medications you're currently taking.
When we eat more nutrient dense, plant-based whole foods, we are setting ourselves up for feeling our best with more energy, clearer thinking and feeling happier but, when we eat foods from fast food joints or out of a box, we are more in a state of survival instead of flourishing. With every bite you take, you have the power to either create a body that feels good and is energized or a body that feels tired, sluggish and fatigued with brain fog and lack of focus. To help step-up your fiber intake, make it a goal to eat at least 25 grams of fiber each day and remember to consume the "rainbow" of fruits and vegetable and to always buy them fresh or frozen and organic whenever possible so that pesticides do not interfere with your long-term health goals.
Bulsiewicz, W. (2020). Fiber fueled: the plant-based gut health program for losing weight, restoring your health, and optimizing your microbiome. Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Sherzai, D., & Sherzai, A. (2021). The 30-day Alzheimer's solution: The definitive food and lifestyle guide to preventing cognitive decline. San Francisco: HarperOne.
Next up: Estrogen: It’s More Than Just About Sex