Why Fiber Is So Important for Gut Health
One reason people advocate for whole food plant based diets is that they are packed with fiber.
One reason why we love Peruvian superfoods is that they are packed with fiber. ;)
There is a lot of evidence that shows that getting in enough fiber can benefit digestion and also reduce the risk of chronic disease. It’s also just superb for the gut.
The benefits from fiber are mediated by one big thing: The gut microbiota. Aka the HUGE FOREST of bacteria that live within your digestive system.
Something to keep in mind is that not all fiber is equal. There are different types and they have different impacts on your health and gut health specifically.
Let’s explore fiber and see some ways in which we can get more in!
What is fiber?
Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in foods. Specifically in plants.
Fiber is really based on water-solubility and can be placed into two different categories.
- Soluble fiber. This dissolves in water. Soluble fiber can be metabolized by the good bacteria that resides within the gut.
- Insoluble fiber. This does NOT dissolve in water.
Here’s another way to think of it:
Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut. This, in turn, produces beneficial short-chain fatty acids.
Insoluble fiber is linked to your digestive system. It helps bulk up stools so that it passes more smoothly through your system.
It’s very important to keep in mind the different types of fiber. Some of them have extraordinary health benefits. Others? Well… they can be useless.
Another thing to note is that there is certainly overlap when it comes to soluble and insoluble fibers. For example: Some insoluble fibers (which bulk up stools) CAN be digested by the bacteria in the intestines. Also, most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fibers.
How much fiber should we get per day?
There are mixed numbers out there. But generally, health authorities usually say that men need around 38 grams of fiber per day, and women need about 25 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber and gut health
The bacteria that live within the human body is like the biggest army we have ever seen. It outnumbers the actual body’s cells from 10 to 1.
Bacteria lives on our skin. Bacteria lives in our nose. It lives in our mouth. But the majority of bacteria lives within the gut: specially in the large intestine.
Science believes there are around 500 different species of bacteria living within the intestine.
This totals out to about 100 trillion cells.
Another word for the bacteria in the gut is known as gut flora.
There is a mutually beneficial partnership going on between you and the gut bacteria within the digestive system.
You house a safe environment for the bacteria. In return, they take care of things that the body simply cannot do on its own without the gut bacteria.
Fiber FEEDS gut bacteria. We need fiber for a healthy, properly functioning gut.
The gut bacteria is responsible for things like:
-Blood sugar control
Fiber acts as energy for these gut organisms. They need it to function and they need it to survive. Fiber is your gut’s best friend.
Where the gut takes issue is when carbs, fats, and proteins are absorbed into the blood before they make it all the way to the large intestine. This leaves barely anything for the gut flora. Carbs, protein, and fat should always have fiber.
Human cells simply don’t have the enzymes that are needed to digest fiber, so it will reach the large intestine almost totally unchanged. Intestinal bacteria though… they will digest these fibers! It’s a cycle.
Gut bacteria needs fiber to survive. Fiber helps gut bacteria break down foods.
Fiber also functions as prebiotics. This is what probiotics (good bacteria in the gut) feed off of.
Have you ever heard someone say, “What’s the use of probiotics without proper prebiotics”? They may as well be saying “what’s the use of probiotics without fiber.”
How to get in more fiber
This is one of our favorite tips! Here’s some ideas:
Breakfast- A giant smoothie with a ton of fruits and veggies. This is where you can even throw in some chia seeds and some powders that are high in fiber (we recommend lucuma) as well as cacao powder.
Lunch- If you choose a sandwich, of course load up on the veggies but also load up on the seeds! This is the perfect time to get seeds in. If you can, you should also find a bread that is super high in fiber- if you can find one that is high in psyllium husk then that will get you a big chunk of fiber for the day!
Snack- Hands down, we love a good chia seed pudding for a snack. You can dress this up with berries and nuts and on the side have half of an avocado with some salt or yacon syrup on it! So tasty. More snacks to come below.
Dinner- Here is where you want to load up on beans, lentils, and of course more veggies! Seriously, half of your plate here should be veggies, but beans and lentils are a massive way to get in more fiber. The two together (a bean or a lentil and the veggies) make for a fiber PACKED plate!
A helpful list to keep handy:
1. Cacao (not chocolate, not cocoa, but straight up cacao!)
2. Flax seeds
3. Chia seeds (by the way these are incredibly versatile!
4. Nuts (great for a higher fat diet, also full of fiber)
5. Avocados (a wonderful veggie all around!)
7. Coconut meat (these days you can often find these prepackaged so you don’t need to break open an entire coconut)
9. Wheat bran
10. Cruciferous veggies: Cabbage, maca, asparagus, bok choy, etc.