It’s my favorite of all the “f” words. No, not the one you’re thinking of, although I’ve been known to let that one slip from time to time. It’s Fiber! Now, don’t worry, this conversation is not going to get all #2 talky on you again. Although, if you missed my post on, “The Power of Poop,” you MUST check it out here!
In its highest quantities, fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But more specifically, fiber is the indigestible parts of plant foods. It is the husk on the grain of wheat, the thin strands in celery, the crunch in the apple, the casings on edible seeds. Fiber is a supernutrient in more ways than one! What we all know about fiber is that yes, it does help to keep us more “regular”. But, there’s so much more to it than that. It slows digestion to keep you full, it reduces cholesterol absorption in your intestines, it slows sugar absorption, and helps maintain heart and digestive health. And none of us, are getting enough of it in our diets. It’s been reported that on average, Americans consumes about 14g of fiber on a daily basis–that’s 50% less than what is recommended!
All of the above benefits to a fiber rich diet you were probably aware of. But, what you might not know is that fiber is crucial in maintaining and improving your gut health—a major health benefit! A healthy gut means a healthy immune system. A recent study reported that fiber could be the most important “gut-nourishing” nutrient you can feed your body. If you have a minute, Time magazine published an amazing article on the healthy relationship between fiber and good gut bacteria here. They get a little more scientific than me, but it’s a great read!
Broken down, here’s what you need to know. Fiber is food for many of our gut bacteria, which exist mostly in the lower intestine. The problem with processed, reduced-fiber foods is that they get digested long before they get to that area. However, raw and cooked whole vegetables and fruit are high in fiber, so they reach the lower intestines relatively intact, where they can then ferment among all the good gut bacteria and keep them full, healthy, and thriving.
Your good gut bacteria feed on fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids. These are absorbed into the bloodstream and both regulate your immune system and decrease inflammation. “That means, if you’re not eating enough dietary fiber, your immune system may be existing in kind of a simmering pro-inflammatory state—the very state that predisposes us to different Western diseases. Our diet and deteriorated microbiota are really a major piece of the puzzle in trying to understand why Western diseases are rising like crazy.”
One important thing to note, not all fiber is created equal. Especially when it comes to gut health. In order to flourish, the bacteria in your colon need a kind of fiber called fructans, which is a type of prebiotic. Below is a list of fiber rich foods. The list highlights the amount of fructans in each item which don’t forget, is key when looking at the relationship between gut health and fiber.
Types of Fiber, Highest to Lowest:
|Grams of Fructans*||SUPER|
|47||1 c. Jerusalem artichoke|
|29||1/2 c. chicory root|
|9||1 c. white onions|
|6||1 c. raspberries|
|6||1 c. cooked beans|
|5||5 asparagus spears|
|3||6 cloves garlic|
|1||1/2 c. wheat bran|
|1||1 c. watermelon|
|1||1 medium banana|
|0.7||1 c. blueberries|
|0.7||1 c. broccoli|
|0.3||1 c. kale|
|0.2||2 c. red leaf lettuce|
Here’s the advice that I give to my clients all the time. First, make sure that you’re getting enough fiber in general in your diet (at least 30 grams a day). Next, focus on choosing the fibrous foods that contain the most fructans and lastly, add a probiotic to your daily vitamin routine. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years is that a healthy diet, rich in fiber from whole foods, leads to a healthy gut and a healthy immune system. Xx Janine