Fiber and Gut Flora: Why is it Important to Eat High-Fiber Everyday
The issue: According to the scientific literature, our gut and gut lining is the basis of our immunity, mental state and general health. The integrity of this lining is critical and when in balance ensures sound nutrient absorption and profusion as well as an effective barrier against pathogenic materials and organisms. Helping to maintain this critical balance, are the millions upon millions of microorganisms that live in the gut. These organisms function to transform food and its fibrous components into vital substances that nourish, empower and protect our bodies. A healthy gut flora converts vitamins into useable forms, provides up to 20% of the body's energy, produces neurotransmitters that keep our mood stable, provide us with endogenous antibiotics to fight pathogens and maintain and promote overall sound digestion and health.
Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in keeping the microbiota healthy and cannot be understated. Fiber provides our bodies with pre-biotics. Prebiotics are the non-digestible fibrous materials upon which the good gut bacteria thrive and grow. In the absence of sufficient fiber, intestinal micro-organisms take to consuming the carbohydrate substrate (polysaccharides) that forms up the intestinal mucosal lining. This has a deleterious consequence to our health.
As these otherwise beneficial organisms begin to ingest the gut lining, the integrity of the barrier is compromised and a condition known as leaky gut can develop. In Leaky gut this once protective barrier, is no longer able to properly and effectively filter out large molecule proteins and potentially toxic metabolic waste products. These noxious substances that get into the bloodstream can cause a variety of immunological reactions to the host leading to a wide range of symptoms. Chronic headaches, fatigue, joint pain, mood issues, inflammatory disorders and auto-immunological and even neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease are among those problems commonly associated with leaky gut (4). There is still much to learn about leaky gut but the science is overwhelming that a diet that is high in dietary fiber and phytonutrients (think plants: veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds) and low in sugar, artificial ingredients and saturated fats (think processed foods and animal fats) will keep our guts healthy
The solution: With a few simple habit changes, eating a high fiber diet can be easy and delicious. The key is to pay attention and eat mindfully.
For example; when selecting a snack, be sure it’s a whole food and consider the quality and fiber profile of your choices. Choosing an ounce of almonds provides 4 grams of fiber, 7g protein, is a great source of magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, healthy fat and is only 170 calories. Compare that to a 1 once bag of pretzels (touted as a low-fat snack) that provides 359 g of sodium, is high in simple carbohydrates (23g) and offers only a minimal amount of RDI of iron (8%) and Magnesium (2%) and less than 1g of fiber. Chose a sweet potato with your dinner and get 4g fiber and a whopping 377% of your RDI of vitamin A, 15% B-6, and 8% magnesium. If you choose a white potato, be sure to wash and eat the skin. This brings the fiber content up to 5g and offers 32% RDI of vitamin C, 20% B-6, 24% potassium and 11% magnesium. Compare a cup of cooked white pasta noodles with 2g of fiber to a whole-wheat variety for 7g fiber. You can see that making these types of mindful switches each day can really add up!
A good goal to strive for a minimum of 25g of fiber per day and working your way up; preferably to 30-50g. So how can you corporate more fiber into your everyday life? Check out the list below! By incorporating these high fiber foods to your diet each day you can change the way your microbiome and intestines do business!
Short List of High Fiber Foods
Beans 1/2 cup cooked 6g-8g (fiber varies with type of bean)
Oatmeal 1 cup cooked 4g
Barley 1 cup cooked 6g
Brown Rice 1 cup cooked 4g
Quinoa 1 cup cooked 5g
Almonds 1oz 4g
Popped corn 1oz 3.5g
Brazil nuts 1oz 3g
Banana 1 medium 3g
Chia Seeds 2 tablespoons 8g-10g
Flax Seeds 2 tablespoons (ground) 4g
Broccoli 5oz 4g
Apple 1 med 4g
Raspberries 1 cup 8g
Orange 1 medium 3g
Pear with skin 1 medium 5g
Split peas 1/2 cup cooked 8g
Lentils 1/2 cup cooked 8g
Psyllium husk 2 tablespoons 10g
Whole wheat pasta 1 cup boiled/drained 7g
Avocado 1 medium10g
Popped corn 4 cups (non-GMO please) 5g
Carrots 3oz 3g
Collard greens and Swiss chard 1 cup 4 gr
Artichokes 1 med 10 g
Example day: 53 grams total fiber.
****REMEMBER TO DRINK LOTS OF QUALITY WATER AS YOU INCREASE YOUR FIBER!
Breakfast: total 13g
1 cup cooked oats (4g) with 1/2 cup berries (4g) drizzled with maple syrup and 1 Tablespoon raisins (1g) hemp seeds or ground flax seeds (4g):
Snack: Almonds 1oz 4g
Lunch: total 18g
2 cups lentil soup 12g
1 orange: 3g
1 serving high fiber Scandinavian crisp bread crackers (Wasa) 3g
grass-fed burger 0g on high fiber whole grain bun: 3g
baked sweet potato fries 1svg 4g
Mixed baby green 2 cups: 3g
1 cup cooked broccoli: 3g
Snack: 4 cups popped corn 5g