The Nutrient So Many Are Deficient In
How often do we hear about the importance of protein? We gotta have the protein, more protein, fewer carbs, you need protein to be healthy and fit. Protein became the ultimate king of the healthy diet. Protein is, of course, absolutely necessary, and essential amino acids are crucial building blocks for the body. However, is it possible that we over-estimate the importance of this nutrient while absolutely under-estimating another?
Yes, we are talking about fiber. The word you definitely heard quite some, but probably not as often as you heard of protein – far from that.
There is a lot of noise around the possibility of protein deficiency, but it’s assumed that protein deficiency is only possible in case of insufficient calorie intake. If we take a look at the US statistics, we come to under 3% of the population being protein-deficient. Now, the opposite is true for fiber: 97% of the US population do not get enough daily recommended fiber intake.
But what’s the fuss about? Why is it so important for us to consume fiber in adequate amounts?
What Are The Benefits Of Fiber In Your Diet?
Let’s get to basics here. Fiber is a type of carb that is not digested by the body and reaches the colon where it either feeds the good bacteria (soluble fiber) or passes through the colon undigested, swiping all the toxins and food residuals out (insoluble fiber).
- It supports healthy microbiota in the gut: it’s hard to over-estimate the importance of good microbiota. The population of bacteria in the gut can be deciding factor on developing or preventing many serious diseases that are linked to inflammation. Fiber feeds the ‘good’ bacteria, which in return helps fight and prevent the overpopulation of the ‘bad’ bacteria.
- Fiber-rich foods have a lower GI index on average, which means that blood sugar doesn’t spike high during digestion
- Fiber doesn’t contain any calories, therefore, keeps us fuller for less calorie intake
- Helps ease the elimination of stool, working as a sponge in the colon
- Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and the absorption of fats, aiding in weight management, and decreasing the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Reduce breast cancer risk: a large 2016 Harvard study showed decrease in breast cancer risk associated with high fiber intake.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Fiber?
- Poor digestive health & constipation: diets low in fiber or high in fat increase the risk for constipation, diverticular disease and haemorrhoids. Insoluble fiber plays a big role in proper functioning of intestines.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: diet low in fiber or high in fat leads to LDL cholesterol level increase that has been associated with significant risks of cardiovascular disease and elevation of blood pressure levels.
- Higher risk of type 2 diabetes risk: Harvard studies found that a type of diet low in fiber and high in foods that cause sudden increases in blood sugar levels more than doubled the risk of type 2 diabetes when to a diet high in fiber and low in high0glicemic index foods.
- Weight gain: since fiber is a zero-calorie filler-nutrient, its deficiency leads to increased calorie consumption and, as a result, may provoke weight gain.
Recommended Fiber Intake
Major Health Organizations recommend to aim for daily intake of fiber for adults at: 25g for women and 38g for men under 50 years old, above 51 years old the recommended amount of fiber is 21g and 30g respectively.
How to Meet Daily Recommendation of Fiber Intake?
There are, of course, fiber supplements available for purchase. And those can be helpful with constipation treatment. But using supplements should be treated instead as an exception since they lack the benefits of the whole foods that come with fiber in natural form.
It is a common misconception that fiber is only obtained from vegetables and fruits. In fact, most of the plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber in varying quantities. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds can very much compete for leadership in fiber content.
Examples of foods rich in fiber:
- Lentils 8g (1/2 cup)
- Chickpeas 6g (1/2 cup)
- Kidney Beans 6g (1/2 cup)
- Pinto Beans 5g (1/2 cup)
- Green Peas 4g (1/2 cup)
- Grains (cooked)
- Bulgur 8g (1 cup)
- Oats 8g (1 cup)
- Brown Rice 4g (1 cup)
- Buckwheat 5g (1 cup)
- Quinoa 5g (1 cup)
- Millet 5g (1 cup)
- Vegetables & Greens
- Brussels Sprouts 6g (1 cup)
- Broccoli 3g (1 cup)
- Sweet Potato 5g (with skin, 1 medium)
- Potato 4g (with skin, 1 medium)
- Fruits & berries:
- Avocado 9g (1 medium)
- Raspberries 8g (1 cup)
- Blackberries 7g (1 cup)
- Pear 6g (1 medium, with skin)
- Apple 4g (1 medium, with skin)
- Nuts & Seeds
- Chia Seeds 14g (1/4 cup, raw)
- Flax Seeds 8g (1/4 cup, chopped)
- Peanuts 3g (1/4 cup, dry roasted)
- Sunflower Seeds 3g (1/4 cup, raw)
- Hazelnuts 3g (1/4 cup, raw)
- Walnuts 2g (1/4 cup, raw)
How To Maximize Fiber Intake
Cooking and processing plant foods may significantly decrease fiber content in them.
To make sure you get all the fiber in full from your food of choice, remember the following:
- A large amount of fiber is found in the skin and peel of fruits and veggies. Eat the skin whenever possible.
- Processing (such as blending, mashing, etc.) fiber-rich foods can significantly lower the amount of fiber. Aim to eat whole food, whenever possible.
- While cooking vegetables may lower the vitamins and minerals content, it doesn’t affect much the amount of fiber. Cooked vegetables are also easier to digest for some. Do not hesitate to vary fresh and cooked food on the table to maximize the fiber intake.
10 Easy Fiber-Rich Meal Recipes
Don’t feel like creating a meal from scratch that would meet your fiber requirements? We’ve got you covered with a list of most fiber-rich meals we have among our recipes.
Most combinations of 2 meals below would get you to a daily recommended value (or close to it).
- Iron-Rich Spinach Smoothie 15g
- Creamy Golden Polenta 10g
- Strawberry & Banana Chia Pudding 9g
- Sauteed Cabbage with Pinto Beans in Tomato Sauce 11g
- Protein-Packed Jacket Potatoes with Black Beans 28g
- Pumpkin Curry with Red Lentils & Coconut Cream 16g
- Mushroom Ragout with Creamy Polenta 11g
- Baked Stuffed Zucchini with Chickpeas and Quinoa 15g
- Creamy Red Lentil Dhal 14g
- Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Chickpeas & Spicy Mushrooms 12g