What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is a component of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by digestive enzymes.
There are already a lot of hints i this definition. First, there are no fibers in meat or animal tissue products. Full stop.
Secondly, we are talking about a substance that is not fully digested by us, hence it stays in your digestive system for a while and then it serves a bit different purpose. It actually feeds your gut bacteria. Yet what does that mean to you and me?
Why is fiber important?
Scientists already know that our body cells contain approximately 90% bacteria cells. It means that we are only plus or minus 10% human. If you connect this fact to our previous statement that fiber feeds our gut bacteria you cannot miss it – yes, it could be more important to properly feed your bacteria in order to be healthy, happy, you name it.
Yet many of us overlook fiber intake altogether.
The statistics is clear on that. Whilst a regular person should consume about 35 grams of fiber a day, we now on average consume only 10 grams!
You can guess why is that – we eat a lot of animal produce, but the worst are those processed, and refined products that could be plant-based, but they were so processed that there is nothing like fiber is left in them. If you grab a regular chain typical burger with minimum amount of veg and a simple bun, you fiber intake is close to zero too.
So it is coming back to whole foods when we are actually starting to feed out bacteria well and I assure you – it pays off! You will no longer need to count calories (provided you only eat whole foods!), you will optimise your weight, you can eat without a need to weigh things or something. You will no longer need any diet whatsoever! Sorry to all those Atkins or Keto guys, if more people simply turn to eat whole foods with an abundant amount of fiber, you will be out of your jobs and well-paid media appearances.
So what’s the recommendation as for fiber intake?
We are quoting the one from AhimsaMeditation.orgwebsite that’s published a Nutrition of Nonviolencearticle and nutrition course: ‘Consume healthy amount of complex carbohydrates. You should aim for slow sugar releasing ones with lower GI/GL and higher in fibre. You can get enough fibre from whole grains, oats, pseudo grains like buckwheat and quinoa’. Simply aim to get 35 grams of fiber a day.
Simply have a look at the labels and make sure your products contain a lot of fiber. You are safe with vegetables, but you should opt for unrefined rice, grains and legumes too. Have a look at the information below this article for some fiber amounts in regular foodstuffs.
What are other benefits to consume plenty of fiber?
You know you can help your blood pressure by drinking hibiscus tea, lowering your sodium intake, and consuming nitrate rich vegetables. Unrefined oats and other fibre rich products help too.
Phytochemicals, along with vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fatty acids, and dietary fibre, are responsible for the protective effects of vegetable and fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Whole grain cereals are rich in fibre and bioactive components, including antioxidants (especially phenolics), phyto-oestrogens (lignans), phytosterols, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Epidemiological studies suggest consumption of whole grains is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases and this is thought to be due to their content of bioactives. Rice – brown rice has a higher protein, mineral, and vitamin content than milled rice, but also has a higher content of phytate and fibre.
Oats – consumption of oat bran became popular because of the cholesterol-lowering properties of its soluble fibre, beta-glucan.
Amaranth has a higher protein and fibre content than most other cereals.
Buckwheat is a seed that is high in protein and soluble fibre. Also a complete protein perfect for vegans. The Tibetans have been eating buckwheat noodles for centuries.
Vegetarian diets are associated with a number of potential benefits. In particular, vegetarians tend to have a healthier body-mass index, their saturated fat intake can be lower (as long as meat is not replaced with high-fat dairy products such as cheese), they have a higher fibre intake, and fruit and vegetable intake tends to be greater. They have been noted to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels than non-vegetarians in the long term, vegetarianism is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. (quoted in ‘Essentials of human nutrition’ by Jim Mann and A. Stewart Truswell 5thEdition, Oxford University Press 2017)
So how much fiber is there?
Fruit and veg:
- apples, bananas, oranges – 3-4 g / cup (eat apples with skins for more!)
- raspberries – 8 grams per cup
- dark green leafy vegetables – opt for darker varieties, so you start with collard greens and chard at 4 grams per cup but finish at whopping 10 grams per cup of artichokes.
- potatoes are not that great – just 3 grams per a medium sized one, make sure you try to roast it and keep the skin on.
- simply check the amount on the tin; if you are cooking from scratch (dry beans), simply know that the average is 17 grams of fiber per 100 grams of chickpeas to 25 grams of fiber per 100 grams of red kidney beans. If you know you need just 35 grams a day to be super healthy, it is clear how great are those beans for you.
- when eating peas, you may have notices they are lighter than beans, so is their fiber content – think about 5-8 grams per 100 grams of peas; yet again, nobody says you need to eat half a kilo of peas a day for your fiber intake, if you eat whole foods, the number stack up nicely.
- when opting for while grains and unrefined options, you are to consume around 5 grams of fiber per 100 grams of product. It is great because they also contain quite a lot of insoluble fiber (like buckwheat), which is super healthy and protective against colorectal cancers.
- generally a bit lower at 3 grams, they are also rich in essential fatty acids, so worth considering adding to your menu.
- with 8 grams of fiber per 100 grams of seaweed (cooked or warmed up), it makes a great addition to salads, soups, casseroles or grains, this type of fiber also promotes regularity and digestive health.
Fiber or Fibre: Summary
It doesn’t matter how you spell it – fiber (US) or fibre (UK), it is essential to consider for your healthy nutrition. It removes the whole concept of dieting and simply points out how beneficial it is to eat whole foods and stay away from refined, processed foods and also all animal-derived products.
Finally, a quick tip: simply check the packaging, it is a rule of thumb that if the amount of fibre less than the amount of carbohydrates divided by 5, it means that this product is indeed heavily processed and/or very unhealthy.
Start watching out for your fiber intake levels and please do get back in touch how you get on. We hope to be of service to you! Stay healthy, happy and of course kind to yourself and others.