Gut health is one of the most popular topics that is circulating the health world. The trillions of organisms, also known as your microbiome, in your gut help manage your overall health. Most people are unaware of the fact that these organisms or bacteria assist with healthy immune function, weight loss, and joint mobility. Recent research even indicates that a healthy gut may help ward off certain cancers and heart disease.
When it comes to keeping track of what you eat, many people are concerned with fats, sodium, proteins, sugars, and calories. While these are important to monitor, one thing that is often neglected is dietary fiber. Scientists have recently proclaimed that America is a constipated nation, and this is in large part due to the fact that most Americans ignore their fiber intake. American adults consume an average of 15 grams of fiber per day, when the recommended daily intake is 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men. Failure to meet these dietary recommendations has resulted in poor gut health, obesity, and decreased immune function.
What Do We Know About Fiber?
Scientific research has long since linked high-fiber diets to longevity and better health. A 1960 review of Ugandans found that high-fiber vegetable diets helped them avoid common diseases that were brought by Europeans and Americans. Another study in the 1980s found that people in rural areas of Japan lived longer than urban dwellers due to their increased fiber intake. More recently, a 2017 study found that fiber is connected to gut microbes and that healthy bacteria require fiber to function optimally. An increased number of gut microbes helps to reduce inflammation and aid digestion. The microbiome can change by the month, by the day, or even by the meal, which is why scientists encourage the regular consumption of fresh fruits, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to maintain healthy fiber intake.
Probiotics are beneficial strains of bacteria that work to fight harmful bacteria in the gut. Most of these harmful bacteria are responsible for chronic inflammation and other gut-related issues. Many probiotics exist in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, miso, kombucha, and kefir.
Prebiotics are also essential to gut health, but they are often outshined by probiotics. Prebiotics actually help to feed the probiotics and other healthy bacteria in the gut. These gut bacteria love fiber, especially the following types:
- Cellulose: This is insoluble fiber, which the body does not digest as it passes through the gut. It is commonly found in carrot peels, broccoli stems, asparagus stalks, and chewy parts of fruit that are often discarded. Peels, stems, and stalks are edible and crucial for maintaining gut health.
- Fructans: These natural, high-fiber carbs are often found in onions, garlic, wheat, and other plant foods. Fructan fibers have a higher survival rate in the GI tract, and that is a good thing. One thing to remember is that heat breaks down fiber, meaning that cooking fructan-rich foods will kill the fiber content.
How Do We Eat More Fiber?
If you want to ditch the constipated ways and improve your gut microbiome, focus on consuming soluble and insoluble fiber. Both are necessary because each has its own functions and benefits for the body. Use the following tips to consume more fiber.
Processed Foods Are Horrible:
Processed foods are often rich in refined grains and sugars, and devoid of fiber. Foods like white bread, pasta, and other enriched flour products are not beneficial for the gut. One of the best ways to consume fiber is by drinking fruit and vegetable smoothies or juices. Both smoothies and juices help to regulate digestion and inhibit blood sugar spikes.
Fruits And Vegetables Are Your Friends:
Natural fiber exists in all fruits and vegetables, meaning that you can’t go wrong by consuming them. One thing to keep in mind, as we mentioned earlier, is that heat kills fiber, so try to limit high-heat cooking or focus on raw fruits and vegetables. You should also strive to eat seasonally to maintain a diverse gut microbiome. Seasonal produce is always more fresh and typically less expensive.
Be Wise At Restaurants:
When you go out to eat, it’s easy to forget about your diet and order whatever you want. Additionally, most unhealthy foods do not come with an array of fruits and vegetables. Try to pick entrée salads, grain bowls, and bean or legume dishes to help meet your fiber requirement goals when you go out to eat.
Fiber Is Always First:
What we mean by this is that you should start consuming fiber at breakfast. American breakfasts, which typically consist of some combination of eggs, bacon and toast, lack the fiber you need. Change up the game by consuming fiber rich meals like overnight chia pudding, a bowl of old-fashioned oats, or a fruit and vegetable smoothie.
Skip Fiber Supplements:
The average person who takes fiber supplements probably has a limited consumption of fiber-rich foods. Fiber supplements give the body a small fiber boost, but the fiber from whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables is much greater and more beneficial.