There’s nothing glamorous about the topic of fiber.
Here in my RESTORE health coaching program, we talk about it anyway.
Because having enough fiber in your diet can be the game-changer that gets you unstuck.
Adequate fiber intake can reduce your risk of disease and help you lose the excess weight you’ve been hanging onto!
I invited my friend and Registered Dietitian, Stacey Frattinger, to give us the scoop on how this not-so-glamorous carbohydrate can have a massive impact on your overall health.
Take it away, Stacey.
What is fiber?
Fiber falls under the category of carbohydrates. Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules and used for energy. Fiber is different; it actually can’t be broken down that way or used for energy. Instead, fiber passes through the body undigested, performing other essential roles.
There are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are required for good health and perform different roles within the body.
Soluble fiber—the type that dissolves in water—can help with blood sugar control and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber—the kind that does not dissolve in water—helps with things like regularity and adding bulk to your bowel movements.
Why is fiber important, and how much do I need?
Fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also reduces your risk of developing kidney stones.
If you have ever suffered from consistent bouts of diarrhea or constipation, fiber can be vital in normalizing your bowel movements. Fiber provides stellar benefits for your digestive health, almost acting as a “broomstick” in cleaning out your digestive tract. Regular bowel movements are essential for reducing the body’s exposure to toxins and allowing harmful bacteria to pass out of your system.
Unfortunately, most Americans only take 10-15 grams of fiber daily instead of the recommended 25-30 grams. Most of us don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables daily. Shoot to get in 5-10 full servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If this number feels unrealistic for you, start from where you are and increase your fruits and veggies gradually.
If you are thinking of taking a fiber supplement to meet daily recommendations, this may not be the best option. Using a fiber supplement of any sort shouldn’t count towards your fiber intake. Instead, shoot to get your fiber from natural, whole food sources. I will share some excellent sources of fiber in sec.
How does fiber impact hunger, cravings, energy & your waistline?
Increasing your fiber intake can be a great strategy for weight management.
Higher fiber diets are linked to greater hunger control, decreased cravings, and even increased energy throughout the day. When you eat more fiber, you are naturally lowering your calorie intake but often feeling greater satiety because higher fiber diets add bulk, slow the digestion process, and lead to a feeling of greater satisfaction.
Envision a plate full of broccoli or a bowl full of berries versus a muffin or donut on your plate. By looking at the plate of broccoli or the bowl of berries, you can see the difference in volume. Now imagine how that greater volume, with fewer calories and more fiber, actually leads to a greater feeling of satisfaction after eating.
Here’s a trick, if it’s one of those days that you decide to enjoy the donut or muffin, try eating the broccoli or berries before biting into the donut or muffin. You’ll feel less hungry. This will make it that much easier to control your portion. You may find you feel satisfied with ½ the baked goods.
When you start hitting your fiber needs daily, you may find your mindset around wanting those muffins and donuts changes.
Many of my clients notice more stable hunger, energy, and cravings when eating 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Remember that even though fiber isn’t providing your body with digestible energy, it does help to control the release of sugar into your bloodstream so you won’t have a crazy energy spike and subsequent crash after eating.
You may have to experiment to find the amount of fiber that works best for you. Upwards of 35-50 grams can create digestive distress, including gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Take your fiber slowly and work on gradual changes over time.
Instead of a fiber supplement, try these foods!
When fiber supplements are produced the fiber is isolated from the plants—why not just eat the real thing when possible?
If you’ve talked with your doctor or another healthcare professional, and they have recommended a fiber supplement, please don’t stop taking it without talking with them, but this article may help you understand why fiber supplements may not be quite as effective for weight management as once thought.
If you aren’t yet incorporating a fiber supplement, or you’ve been incorporating one on your own just because there are plenty of higher-fiber foods that may be helpful to add into your diet on a more consistent basis aside from fruits and veggies.
Here are 10 foods that give you a hearty dose of fiber
- Barley: 1 cup cooked provides 6 grams of fiber.
- Chickpeas: ½ cup cooked provides 6 grams of fiber.
- Edamame: ½ cup boiled & shelled provides 4 grams of fiber.
- Lentils or split peas: ½ cup cooked provides 8 grams of fiber.
- Berries: 1 cup provides 8 grams of fiber.
- Pears: 1 medium pear provides 6 grams of fiber.
- Artichoke Hearts: ½ cup cooked provides 7 grams of fiber.
- Brussels Sprouts: 1 cup cooked provides 5 grams of fiber.
- Avocado: ½ avocado provides 5 grams of fiber.
- Chia Seeds: 2 tablespoons provides 10 grams of fiber.
For more ideas on how to incorporate these 10 foods into your diet, check out this link. Be aware that as you work towards increasing your fiber intake, you must also drink extra water, particularly if you aren’t already getting in about 6-8 glasses daily.
Now that you have the scoop on the benefits of fiber in terms of disease risk reduction, overall improved health, and weight management, it’s time to start experimenting with increasing your fiber intake. I hope you feel inspired to find the fiber crunch that works for you.
More about the author:
Stacey Frattinger is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Integrative Health Coach, Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach.