"When you gradually add in nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods, you simply stop feeling cravings. You run out of space in your belly for the old junk. Instead of craving, you feel full, fulfilled, and content."
When you eat it, it goes straight through you. Your body can't digest it. So why is fiber so important? There's a lot of confusion about what fiber is and why we need it. The three main nutritional categories- carbohydrates, protein, and fats are what we mostly focus on, and fiber is often ignored because it seems less important.
Even worse, while fiber helps the stomach and intestines, it makes foods not taste quite as good. Today's restaurant and processed foods are all about "mouth feel", going for that bliss point of sending your tongue into food ecstasy. What happens inside the mouth is what triggers the opioids and dopamine that makes you feel good and buy more food. Once down the throat, your brain doesn't particularly care what you just ate. Fiber impedes "mouth feel", and so it is stripped away to give us white rice, white bread, fruit juice, and processed meats. Our teeth don't have to work as hard and the food almost melts on your tongue, maximizing flavors.
So here's some bad news- your tongue is an idiot. It is lying to you. The foods that taste the best are often lacking things that matter down below. Let's take a quick look at fiber and why it makes a difference even though you don't digest it.
Fiber, also known as roughage, is the part of the plant foods that you eat the body can't deal with. There are two types of fiber.
- Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel that slows the rate of digestion itself. Soluble fiber reduces the amount of glucose that gets absorbed into the blood and helps with absorption of nutrients. In addition, it's been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.
- Insoluble fiber. This type does not dissolve in water and leaves our body pretty much the same way it came in. While adding nothing to your nutrition, it turns out this fiber is handy for a different reason- cleaning out your pipes. The human digestive tract is some thirty feet of tubing that can accumulate waste and cancer-causing polyps. Insoluble fiber from plant foods does a great job of cleaning and polishing the intestines and making our bowel movements regular.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends an average of 25 grams per day of fiber for women and 38 grams for men (Less for those over 50). Only 5% of Americans reach that goal, with women averaging 15 grams per day and men 18 grams. This is mainly due to the processed foods that most of us eat, which are dictated by the tongue much more than the gut.
The benefits of eating fiber are surprisingly strong as shown in a number of clinical studies and reviews. Fiber has been shown to not only protect from life threatening diseases like colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, but it has health benefits across the board, including aiding with weight loss.
This is one nutritional factor that just doesn't seem to hit home for many people. Maybe it's the bowel unpleasantness, or maybe we just like food to melt on our tongue while our teeth get lazy. But in order to get in shape for Covid, fiber has to be a part of the plan.
Here are some of the top foods to eat to increase your fiber intake.
1- Whole grain bread. You should have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
2- High fiber cereals. Try to find something with at least 6 grams of fiber per serving and not too much sugar.
3- Fruits- best are Pears, Apples, Strawberries, or Bananas, though almost all fruit are loaded with fiber. Stay away from fruit juice if possible.
4- Vegetables- Carrots, beets, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes are good sources.
5- Popcorn- just don't load up on salt and butter.
6- Brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, whole-wheat pasta.
7- Beans and legumes- lentils, lima beans, peas, baked beans, other beans.
8- Nuts and seeds- by themselves or added to other dishes
9- Prunes- the king of fiber and regularity- 2 grams of fiber in every prune aka known as dried plums!
10- Fiber supplements. These are better than no fiber, but not as good as the real thing. The supplement market is wildly unregulated- find something well-recommended.
It's okay to eat foods without fiber once in a while. They go down like butter. And oh boy do they taste good. But be aware that your body is finely tuned by evolution to need a little Fiber Roto Rooter from time to time. And most high fiber foods can taste great, depending on how they are prepared. Try to eat more fiber in your diet. At least 20-30 grams per day. Your gut will thank you.