Getting Right With Your Gut About Fiber

Aside from commercials featuring grandparents and their preferred fibrous cereal brands, it’s possible that the American public school system may have neglected their duty to fiber education.

However, since we need roughly 20 to 35 grams of it daily…

And it pretty much facilitates the ease of bowel movements and the second two phases of digestion…

We think it’s pretty important.

Let’s break down fiber with eight fast facts. 

Fact 1: It is a nondigestible, plant-based carbohydrate. It actually has almost no caloric value and passes through the digestive tract basically untouched. 

Fact 2: There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The only difference is that soluble fiber can dissolve in water, while insoluble fiber cannot. They are equally important to your gut’s microbiome!

Fact 3: Insoluble fiber, since it cannot dissolve in water, acts as a sponge. It can soak up 15 times its weight in water. The effect? You feel full for longer! It also is responsible for making the body’s waste heavier and easier to pass. It does this by attaching itself to the waste, helping to prevent hemorrhoids, heart disease, and several cancers. 

Fact 4: Soluble fiber removes cholesterol from the bloodstream by binding with it and taking the cholesterol with it on its journey!

Fact 5: Food must have 3 grams of fiber per serving to be considered a “good” source of fiber. It must have 5 grams per serving to be considered “excellent.”

Fact 6: The higher your fiber intake, the faster food moves through the body and exits as waste. For example, in many third-world countries, where fiber content is very high, it only takes 1.5 days for food to move through the body, as opposed to 3 days on average in most first-world countries. 

Fact 7: Because fiber takes longer to chew, it can help with overeating issues. You see, it takes the gut about 20 minutes from getting full to realize it’s full. The slower you eat, the slower you digest, and the less you’ll have eaten by the time the signal gets to your brain that you’ve eaten enough! In fact, increasing your fiber intake by 14 grams a day can result in an up to 10% caloric decrease. 

Fact 8: As you increase your fiber intake, you should also increase your water intake. The more water you drink, the more easily you can move fiber through your digestive tract. But be careful! There is such a thing as too much fiber — going over 50 grams per day can cause diarrhea, bloating, and issues absorbing minerals.

Now, in order to meet those requirements, it’s important to understand which kinds of foods contain the healthiest fiber content.

Whole grain foods have bran, germ, and endosperm in them naturally. Whole wheat has almost four times the fiber content of brown rice — both are healthy, but you’ll be getting the most bang for your buck with whole grain foods.

Even choosing a whole grain sandwich bread can add 3-5 grams of fiber to your daily intake!

Let’s get back to soluble versus insoluble. 

When you want to increase your soluble fiber intake, you’ll want to eat: 

  • Oats, oat bran, dried beans, peas, strawberries, apples, potatoes, citrus, prunes, and barley.

When you want to increase your insoluble fiber intake, you’ll want to eat:

  • Fruit with skins, raw vegetables, nuts, bran, brown nice, legumes, and whole-grains (like barley, quinoa, and wild rice) 

These lists are by no means exhaustive — they should just be an easy first step to increasing your daily fiber count! 

If you’re trying to trick yourself into eating fiber more often (as you should,) here a few highly effective hacks: 

  • Eat the vegetables on your plate FIRST.
  • Eat lots of popcorn! There are four grams of fiber per ounce of popcorn. 
  • Always choose whole grains over refined grains whenever possible.
  • Get lots of seeds and nuts in your diet. 
  • Introduce a fiber supplement into your daily routine if you’re having a hard time getting fiber naturally.
  • Make sure there are lots of berries and legumes in your diverse diet.
  • Don’t peel fruits/vegetables/potatoes!

Getting right about fiber is a way of life — not something you can check off of a checklist. But once you weave it into your habits and diet, you’ll experience more regularity, lower risk for diseases, gastrointestinal peace, and more energy all around.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.