With a growing interest in gut health and the microbiome, the trends keep coming. Turmeric, collagen, probiotics and bone broth may be glamorous but fiber is the single more important factor for the health of your gut microbiome (aka. bacteria buddies). People ask me all the time "If I was going to add one thing, what would you recommend?" and my answer is always "Start with fiber!"
Fiber is found in plant-based foods like: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, tubers, beans, legumes, and whole grains. There are two types of fiber: soluble (which dissolves in water), and insoluble (which doesn't dissolve in water). Both play really important roles with regards to our gut health.
If you're not yet sold on prioritizing fiber in your diet, keep reading because I'm about to drop some knowledge on why this is the single more important thing you can add to your diet for better digestion, skin, immunity, and energy.
5 Reasons to Love Fiber
1. Fiber Feeds Your Gut Microbiome
Your body has more bacterial cells than human cells and most of these bacteria are hanging out in your large intestine. It might creep you out, but it's a really good thing, I promise. These bacteria help regulate everything from your mood to your immune system and of course they keep digestion working happily.
Here's the thing, these bacteria need food to do their jobs. So what do they eat? You guessed it: fiber. The more fiber you consume, the happier and healthier your microbiome will be.
2. Fiber Keeps You Full
One of the factors that tells your GI tract to signal to your brain to stop eating, is how much your stomach has expanded. Fiber is bulky so it fills you up faster and helps you regulate your hunger and fullness cues, compared to highly processed, low fiber foods.
A simple swap like using high fiber pasta in place of refined white pasta can make a big difference in how your body responds to a meal, and how full you feel after eating.
3. Fiber Supports Blood Sugar & Metabolism
Fiber is actually not digestible for humans, but it usually comes in with nutrients your body loves. Because of this, your body has to work hard to separate the fiber from the nutrients. This slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar spikes and dips. A high fiber diet can even can even prevent Type 2 Diabetes from developing.
When you pair fiber with protein and fat at every meal, you're setting yourself up to have more balanced blood sugar throughout the day. This means more stable moods and energy, which can help with focus and decision making throughout the day.
4. Fiber Makes Epic Poops
The one thing we all know for sure about fiber, it makes for an awesome poop.
Certain fibers naturally add bulk to your stool, making it both easier to pass, and increasing the frequency. It's important to at least have one bowel movement daily so if you're feeling a little backed up, increase your fiber intake to help normalize your bowel movements.
5. Fiber is Your "Daily Detox"
Fiber makes for awesome poops and awesome poops are your body's favourite way to detox unwanted substances. It actually binds with excess cholesterol and estrogens and removes them from your body.
Instead of following a crash diet "detox" or drinking a "detox tea," fiber supports your body's favourite detoxification pathway, pooping!
How to Get More Fiber in Your Life
Most people nowadays are getting in less than 20 grams of fiber on a daily basis. However, many evolutionary biologists and anthropologists suggest that humans were eating around 100 grams per day when we were living as hunter gatherers.
So how much should you be eating? Aim for a minimum of 35 grams in on a daily basis. If you're anything like me, counting grams of anything and tracking your food intake isn't your love language. So I've pulled together this list of simple tips that will help you get your fiber intake up without obsessing over it. Just a quick word of caution: go low and slow with incorporating fiber. If you're not used to eating much fiber, increasing your intake too fast can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and gas. Pick one thing from this list to start doing each week instead of adding them all at once. Once all five become a habit, your fiber intake will be optimized.
1. Eat 2 Tablespoons of Ground Flax/Chia Daily
Seeds like chia and flax are a great way to increase the amount of fiber you're getting in, without really noticing it. You can rotate between the two or make a 50/50 mixture. Ideally, grind your seeds fresh and store them in the fridge but you can also buy pre-ground chia and flax.
Here are a few ways to sneak ground flax/chia in:
Add to applesauce as a snack
Toss into a smoothie
Sprinkle over yogurt with berries
Stir into juice and drink immediately
2. Optimize your Carbohydrates
Legumes like beans and lentils are high in protein, but they are primarily carbohydrates. Instead of limiting these foods to the protein portion of your meal, make them a go-to carb. A cup of chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans, peas, split peas, can offer somewhere between 10-15 grams of fiber.
Here are some ways to get more legumes in your life:
Swap half your rice for lentils
Use roasted chickpeas instead of croutons
Choose bean-based pastas
Blend white beans into potato soup
If you have a hard time digesting legumes, try soaking them for 12 hours before cooking. This makes a huge difference in digestion. Start with small amounts, just a few tablespoons per day, and increase as your body adjusts.
3. Reach for Berries Daily
Berries are truly amazing! Not only are they packed with gut-loving fiber, they are also high in polyphenols that give your gut bugs an extra boost. Eating a cup of berries in each day can help to increase your fiber intake, and fight oxidative stress.
Blackberries and raspberries are highest in fiber, blueberries are packed with extra polyphenols for happy gut bugs. When they're not in season or available locally, you can buy frozen berries and add them to oats, yogurt, and smoothies.
4. Boost Your Baked Goods
Baked goods can be a sneaky way to boost your fiber intake, and who doesn't love a muffin?
Here are a few ingredients to stock in your pantry for high fiber baking:
Psyllium husk or powder
Ground flax seed
Black beans (Google "black bean brownies")
5. Snack Strategically
Swapping highly-processed and refined snacks that might be lacking in fiber with fiber-rich foods can satisfy your snack craving and score you all the benefits of fiber.
Here are a few high fiber snack ideas:
Hummus with veggies and seed crackers
Chia-pudding topped with fruit
Overnight oats topped with berries
Muffins made with ground flax
Need a high fiber meal plan?
My 7-Day High-Fiber Meal Prep Plan was designed specifically for busy people who want to love their guts but don't have the time to put extra effort into increasing fiber.
It includes a one week meal plan, itemized grocery list, recipes, and a handy check-list to help with meal prepping. High fiber, gut-healthy recipes, right at your fingertips. Sound like something you need in your life? You can check out the plan here.