If you look at how our bodies work and all that they do, it’s not advisable to go around thinking that just one thing can be the answer to good health. But we see it all the time. It’s a vitamin, a pharmaceutical, a cleanse, even a diet of only raw foods. Buyer beware!
Most of the time, we need a combination of nutrients because nutrients need each other in order for your body to use them. That’s why reputable sources are always saying that the best thing to do is eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Variety is the key. Even multivitamins have been getting bad press, saying that many times they get excreted (lost) without helping you at all.
But, there is ONE thing!
Here is a news bulletin:
There actually is ONE thing that you can ingest that will help you and your health enormously. Mercifully, I will not make you wait for it!
IT IS FIBER!!!
Fiber is something you can get excited about. And yet, it is often relegated to a subtext in nutrition manuals. People can automatically start getting bored when the subject comes up. Mention fiber, and many people will say, “but doesn’t that give you a lot of gas?” Or, “isn’t that just for people who are constipated?”
It’s just not fair.
Let’s put fiber front and center.
Health-wise, getting enough fiber gives you gut health. Gut health gives you reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. It also makes for better brain function, mitigating depression, anxiety, and dementia. And, by the way, it can help you lose weight. Not bad, right?
A tour of the gut
How can that be? You can think of it this way: Our guts are where the rubber hits the road. It is where nutrients are absorbed so you can use them. Your gut needs certain life-affirming bacteria in order to get the job done. Fiber gives that good bacteria something to munch on.
Let’s talk about hormones for a minute. Maybe you never thought about this, but hormones are running the show when it comes to regulating your metabolism, your immune system, and your reproductive system. That includes the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full, thirsty or not, regulate your blood sugar, your cholesterol, and even your blood pressure. On top of that, fiber hangs out in your gut and helps you feel full. It also leads to releasing the hormones that tell your brain whether you are full or hungry.
One type, called insoluble fiber, does that and more. It doesn’t get absorbed at all, but does catch toxins, and helps with insulin sensitivity (reminder: insulin is a hormone). Then, it gets excreted out, so that you do not take it on as a calorie.
The other kind, soluble fiber, dissolves in your gut with the addition of water. This is where the nutrients from food get transferred into your blood for you to use. It also helps regulate blood sugar, and is part of the process that regulates cholesterol. (Your body needs cholesterol in many areas, most notably the brain, so it is not a good idea just to flush it. You want it to be going to the right places, and in the right amount.)
Not enough fiber
As it turns out, Americans are not getting enough fiber. You could probably figure that out. People in America are getting most of their calories from junk/processed foods, which are notoriously lacking in fiber. As of 2021, stats tell us that only 5% of men and 9% of women are getting the recommended amount of daily fiber.
Just so you know, the recommended amount for women is about 25 grams per 2,000 calorie diet, and 38 grams for a man consuming around 2,500 calories. For those consuming fewer calories because of a relatively lower body weight, the fiber recommendation goes down.
It should be noted that foods high in fiber also tend to be lower in calories. It’s a win-win!
Where to get fiber
Let’s get down to the nitty gritties. What are the biggest bangs for your fiber buck? For your convenience, here are some lists. Disclaimer: I have not mentioned foods that I have not heard of or that don’t seem to be readily available.
(you can eat a reasonable amount and still get a good fiber hit)
- Navy beans
- Small White beans
- Yellow beans
- French beans
- Split peas
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
(again, based on eating a reasonable amount)
- Shredded wheat cereal
- Bran flakes
- Lima beans
- Green peas
- Mung beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Chick peas
- Sweet potato
- Kidney beans
- White beans
- Black-eyed peas
(but can’t eat in large quantities)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Dark chocolate (not kidding)
These items were culled from a more complete list, which can be obtained from the link below.
Let’s get real. As you can see, the biggest hitters are BEANS, and bean relatives like lentils. No wonder people are afraid that good fiber can give them gas!
For sure, this can happen. Indeed, if you are not used to much fiber in your diet, it is a good idea to add more in slowly. Let your gut get used to it. Then, add some more.
But, basically, soluble and insoluble fibers are both found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and, of course, beans. Sadly, hardly any fiber, if any, is found in meat, eggs, dairy, fish, and chicken. And, of course, forget anything good for your gut coming from chocolate chip cookies, cheese dip, or Whoopie pies.
What to do? More and more food labels are indicating the fiber content in them. This is one more useful thing to check out on labels and take note of. Then again, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) don’t usually come with labels. When you think about it, that means they are not processed, and have the nutrients and fiber left in them. So, go for it! It’s not just about beans.
© 2024 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: olgamarc | iStock