Any remotely health-oriented food label these days proudly displays the fiber content of the food within. We hear vague reasoning about its benefits on heart and colon health and cholesterol lowering properties, and I think pretty much everybody has come to believe that fiber is a GOOD thing. Still, most Americans do not even get HALF of the 25 – 30 grams recommended by the FDA every day. Why not?
First, What IS Fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that doesn’t actually get digested by the body. There are two kinds: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber expands in the digestive tract and slows digestion. Insoluble fiber doesn’t change from the time you ingest it to the time you release it, gives your intestines a good scrubbing all the way through, and gives bulk and softness to your poops. It’s one of nature’s great detoxifiers, and it is found in the cell walls of plant foods.
Where does it come from?
Fiber can be found in just about all plant-based foods, from lettuce to skin-on potatoes to legumes and grains. Meeting your daily needs through these sources can require you to eat a LOT of plant material. If we base this on the 25 gram minimum recommended for women, this could look like:
• 3.25 cups of raspberries (8g fiber/15g carbs/5g sugar/.8g fat/1.5g protein per cup)
• 6 c broccoli (3.8g fiber/10g carbs/2.5g sugar/4.2g protein/.5g fat per cup/148g)
• 2.5 c avocado (10g fiber/12g carbs/1g sugar/21g fat/2.9g protein per cup/146g)
• 1.5 cups lentils (16g fiber/40g carbs/3.6g sugar/.8g fat/18g protein per cup/198g)
• 7 cups brown rice (3.5g fiber/45g carbs/.7g sugar/1.8g fat/5g protein per cup/195g)
• 13 cups Romaine lettuce (1.8g fiber/1g sugar/2.8g carbs/.3g fat/1g protein per cup)
• 17 cups shredded red cabbage (1.5g fiber/5 g carbs/2.7g sugar/.1g fat/1 g protein per cup/70g)
• 7.5 cups Brussels sprouts (3.3g fiber/8g carbs/1.9 sugar/.3g fat/3g protein per cup/88g)
• 6 cups cooked oatmeal (4g fiber/1.1g sugar/27g carbs/3.2g fat/6g protein per cup/234g)
• 6 medium (3”diameter) apples (4.4g fiber/19g sugar/25g carbs/.3g fat/.5g protein per apple)
That’s all well and good, but if you are on a low carb or Keto diet, you can do the math to see that eating your fiber without going over your carbs with these common, highest-fiber foods would be IMPOSSIBLE. If you are Intermittent Fasting, you would need one helluva appetite to get most of these options in. And if you’re Keto AND Intermittent Fasting, as I am – Jeepers H. Crow, this is NEVER going to work!
What does it do for me?
A better question might be “what DOESN’T fiber do for me?” – because it contributes to so many health-related functions, it’s not even possible to list them all. For a sampling that I will go into much more detail in Part 2 of this post, fiber:
- Can protect against colorectal, breast, mouth, throat, and esophogeal cancers
- Helps regulate both blood glucose and insulin levels
- Feeds the good bacteria in your gut
- Is helpful in reducing hunger and increasing fullness
- Has been shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels
Now, this is just a sampling, but a very convincing one in my opinion.
So what can I do to make sure I get enough?
The solution is easier than you think. Eat normal amounts of your favorite non-starchy, high-fiber vegetables and high-fiber fruits like raspberries and strawberries. THEN supplement with any of the following options:
• 1 Tablespoon of Psyllium Husk Powder (10g fiber/10g carbs/0g sugar/0g fat/0g protein)
• 2 Tablespoons Whole Psyllium Husks (7g fiber/8g carbs/0g sugar/0g fat/0g protein)
• 1 Tablespoon Acacia fiber powder (6g fiber/6g carbs/0g sugar/0g fat/0g protein)
• 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds (5g fiber/5g carbs/0g sugar/3g fat/3g protein)
• 2 Tablespoons Ground Flaxseed (4g fiber/5g carbs/0g sugar/3.5g fat/3g protein)
• 1 teaspoon Glucomannan powder (4g fiber/4g carbs/0g sugar/0g fat/0g protein)
Mix any of these, in the recommended amounts, into a 8 – 12 oz glass of water and chug it before it solidifies. Yes – it really will pretty much solidify!
This is a mere selection of 100% gluten free, super-high-fiber, minimally processed, whole foods options for you. You can usually find psyllium, flaxseed and chia at the grocery store, and even acacia and glucomannan at more health-oriented grocery shops. There are also countless kinds of caplets filled with these ingredients available at these stores and online. I even got my last container of pure psyllium husk powder at CVS!
What about those other ones at the pharmacy?
Metamucil, Benefiber, and the like are also valid options for fiber supplementation. I choose to stay away from them either because of additives (like synthetic sweeteners in Metamucil) or because they are derived from glutenous grains like wheat. If neither of these things bothers you, GO FOR IT! But if you, like me, are trying to stick to a diet made from real, whole food ingredients, go for the list above.
How do I consume it?
Mix any of the recommended amounts into 8 – 12 oz cold liquid, stir well, and CHUG. If you don’t consume it quickly, it will expand if not solidify, making it extremely unpalatable and hard to swallow.
I usually take 2 doses per day, at 11am and bedtime. This is both to help ease hunger by filling up my stomach, and to promote the flushing of extra estrogen through easy movements. When we burn fat as we do on Ketogenic diets, estrogen that is trapped in the fat cells is released back into the digestive tract. If our bodies are not releasing fecal matter in a “regular” manner, that estrogen is reabsorbed back into the body, thereby causing a whole slew of hormonal issues.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Fiber CAN interfere with your body’s absorption of particular nutrients and enhance the absorption of others, whether from food or vitamins. I personally recommend taking it at least 30 minutes before or after you consume other nutrient-dense products. It can also interfere with medications, so this is a place to check with your doctor about guidelines regarding medicine and fiber supplementation.
Is there anything else I can do?
Absolutely! There are all sorts of foods and recipes made from or with the list I gave you. Have chocolate chia pudding for breakfast! Make pho with shirataki noodles (made from glucomannan). Bake some Keto buns using psyllium husk powder and flaxmeal as ingredients! You have options – and now you also have links to some of my favorite Keto websites!
Are there any amazing supplementary forms of fiber you feel that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments!