Back in the day when I had little to no knowledge of food and what it did for you, I knew about fiber. Well I knew it was really important to eat fiber so I could go to the toilet on a regular basis. As far as I knew that was the only function of fiber; making sure I had a regular stool.
At the time I had no idea how important your intestines are. I considered them mostly as an inconvenience and something necessary for digestion but that was about it. Over the course of the last couple of years I’ve come to understand the importance of a healthy gut and – consequently – the importance of eating fiber.
In very broad terms there are two types of fiber: soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble fibers. Both are equally important but in general the soluble fibers contain food for your micro organisms in your gut and the insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass.
Research shows that most people eat way too little fiber. The recommended daily dose is at least 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. But if you look at studies of hunter gatherer communities you’ll find that they ate anywhere between 40 to 100 grams of fiber a day! In our current diets we don’t get anywhere close to the recommended guidelines, let alone to a higher amount.
There are a host of illnesses that can be prevented or improved by eating enough fiber including heart diseases, diabetes (type II) and certain types of cancer (colorectal, liver, pancreas and others). Eating your fiber is important!
Feeding your gut bacteria the right things helps them with digesting and absorbing your micro nutrients. It helps regulate insulin levels and helps to improve your immune system.
Sources of fiber
Fibers are found in plant based products. You might find a tiny bit in meat but you’re not gonna eat meat to increase your fiber intake. It is most readily found in vegetables and fruit, grains and nuts and seeds. We’ve all been taught to eat grains to eat fiber but a much better source of fiber (and a host of other micro nutrients) is of course vegetables and fruits.
How to increase your fiber intake
- Eat more vegetables and fruits! It can be as simple as that. Eating vegetables at every meal is a good idea, but if you currently do not eat a lot of fiber make sure you increase slowly or your intestines will surely start to protest.
- When you bake use a flour with a lot of fiber in it
- Eat chia, flax seeds, hemp seeds and sesame seeds. They are particularly good for your gut.
- Don’t peel your apples, pears or potatoes. A lot of fiber resides in the outer layer of the fruits and starchy vegetables so eating that increases your fiber intake too.
- Eat avocado! I find this a surprising one as you don’t expect a creamy avocado to actually contain a lot of fiber, but it does. Half an avocado contains up to 5 grams of fiber! Another good reason to eat avocado (such as in this delicious recipe for avocado boats
In general a paleo diet will be superior in terms of fiber intake as the focus is on eating whole and unprocessed foods with the emphasis on a lot of vegetables.
How do you make sure you eat enough fiber?
Source: Paleo Principles by Sarah Ballantyne
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