Boost Your Digestive Health With This One Simple Nutrient
Digestive health is a decidedly unsexy subject, but we need to talk about it, OK?
Dietary fiber is one of my favorite ways to keep the gastrointestinal (GI) tract healthy. It prevents and alleviates constipation and reduces risk of some inflammatory bowel diseases. Also, your gut doesn't have the enzymes to break down soluble fiber, so it slides down to your colon, where that soluble fiber (found in oatmeal, lentils, fruit, and nuts) becomes short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are your colon's "gasoline" or fuel: they help everything run efficiently down there and support our overall immune system.
If it makes the conversation any easier, fiber also curbs your appetite helping you become lean and sexy. Research also shows that fiber can reduce your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Preliminary studies shows that fiber may even improve memory and mood!
So yeah, fiber's that important for gut health and lots more. Studies show most American adults get less than half the recommended amount, and if you're on a low-carb diet, that number is even lower.
So, let's get your numbers gradually up to the recommended 21-25 daily grams for women and 31 - 38 daily grams for men. You can easily do this by incorporating more of these nutritious and fiber-rich foods:
Leafy and Cruciferous Veggies
Spinach, broccoli, and other veggies provide serious fiber and nutrients for very few calories. I slip raw kale into my morning protein shake, I enjoy a giant salad for lunch, and I do double veggies at dinner. Kids love mashed cauliflower with coconut oil or ghee.
Some smart high-fiber veggies include:
Artichoke (1 medium) - 10 g of fiber
Cooked Broccoli (1 cup) - 5 g of fiber
Brussels sprouts (1 cup) - 4 g of fiber
Kale (1 cup) - 3 g of fiber
My favorite berries are raspberries; 1 cup provides a whopping 8 grams of fiber. Fresh berries with cinnamon and sliced almonds for dessert provide 10 grams of fiber per serving. Smear almond butter on apple slices for a sweet, crunchy high-fiber treat.
Some smart high-fiber fruits include:
Raspberries (1 cup) - 8 g of fiber
Blueberries (1 cup) - 4 g of fiber
Apple (1 small) - 4 g of fiber
Slow-Release Starchy Carbs
Lentils and other legumes are a good source of fiber and plant-based protein. Don't neglect other slow-release, nutrient-dense carbs like sweet potatoes and quinoa, which also pack a fiber punch.
Some smart high-fiber starchy carbs include:
Lentils (1 cup) - 16 g of fiber
Garbanzo beans (1 cup) - 13 g of fiber
Kidney beans (1 cup) - 13 g of fiber
Quinoa (1 cup) - 5 g of fiber
Sweet potato (1 medium) - 4 g of fiber
Love avocado? You're in luck, 1 cup packs 10 grams of fiber. Load sliced avocado on your salad or top grass-fed burgers with fresh guacamole. Nuts, seeds, and nut butters are also healthy-fat sources that come loaded with protein, nutrients, and fiber. Kids love pistachio-crusted chicken fingers, and I throw slivered almonds into salads. I also add freshly ground flaxseed into my morning shake for an easy fiber boost.
Some high-fiber good fats include:
Almonds (1/4 cup) - 4 g of fiber
Flaxseed (2 tablespoons) - 5 g of fiber
Avocado (1 cup) - 10 g of fiber
Some days, you do your best and still fall short. Maybe you're stranded at the airport with a three-hour layover or you're at your veggie-phobic in-laws' house. Regardless, meeting your fiber quota feels nearly impossible.
That's when I turn to a high-quality fiber supplement. For efficiency, I prefer powders to capsules. Look for a multi-fiber supplement with a blend of soluble and insoluble fibers, and always take the supplement with plenty of water.
I mentioned before that fiber curbs appetite for fat loss. I'll let you in on one of my top tricks to stay lean. About 30 minutes before your meal, stir a spoonful or two of fiber powder (freshly ground flaxseed also works) into a tall glass of water. You'll be far more likely to bypass asking for seconds of your aunt's homemade pie.
– JJ Virgin
Readers - Do you eat enough fiber each day? Did you know all of the health benefits of fiber or that it can help you stay lean? What are your favorite fiber-rich foods? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet and the bestselling Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She was also co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.