At this point, you might be sick and tired of me talking about gut health. But folks, it’s THAT important! Getting in adequate fiber each day, both soluble and insoluble, is essential to our health in more ways than one. Sure, we know fiber helps you poop (sorry, I said it). But why is being regular a sign of a healthy gut in general?
We know that by having bowel movements we are excreting waste, which includes substances such as excess hormones, cholesterol, and toxins that we want the body to be rid of. When we’re unable to have bowel movements regularly, such as when we become constipated, we risk letting those hormones and toxins circulate back into the body. When this happens, our fat cells want to hold onto these hormones and toxins and store them, which can lead to stubborn weight loss because our bodies don’t want those substances being released back into the blood stream.
Fiber, an indigestible plant material, is essential for populating our gut with diverse and healthy bacteria. Passing through our small intestine unchanged, our large intestine is where already present bacteria ferments or digests the fiber. The products of fermentation stimulate the bowels as well as help to protect and nourish the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal wall. Keeping this lining protected can prevent inflammatory diseases such as IBS, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Additionally, keeping our gut bacteria balanced is essential for keeping serotonin levels balanced, our immune systems strong, and metabolism in working order.
So how many grams of fiber do we really need each day to reap the benefits? Ideally, men should be getting 35-40 grams a day while women should aim for around 30 grams. If your body isn’t used to that much fiber, those numbers may seem daunting at first. Your best bet is to start slowly and work your way up while also increasing your water intake. The more fiber you eat, the more water you need to drink! Getting in those 30-40 grams becomes much easier if you know of the richest sources. Here’s a list to get you started:
Chia seeds – 8 g per 2 tbsp
Beans – 8 g per ½ cup
Chickpeas – 8 g per ½ cup
Ezekiel sprouted grain bread – 3 g per slice
Raspberries/blackberries – 8 g per cup
Apple with skin – 4.5 g per whole apple
Artichoke hearts – 7 g per ½ cup
Avocado – 5 g per ½ cup
Steel cut oats – 5 g per ¼ cup
Rolled oats – 4 g per ½ cup
Banana – 3 g per whole banana
Edamame – 8 g per 1 cup
These are just a few of some rich sources of fiber you can easily add into your meals and snacks. Remember that variety is essential in helping to keep the bacteria in your gut as diverse as possible! Eating some of the foods above, along with plenty of different types of vegetables, will help you to get in all the grams of fiber you need to stay regular and keep your gut happy and healthy.