Gut Speak, Week 4
Fiber comes in two sources, insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber is what I lovingly call “Tree Bark”. It does not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water and becomes thick and gloppy. The overall goal for daily fiber is really “the more the better”. Men should get closer to 40 grams per day and women closer to 30 grams per day. Have you ever tracked your fiber intake? Do you get 25-35 g fiber per day? Sufficient fiber helps with ease of elimination, helps to speed transit time of food through your gut and prevent hemorrhoids.
Apples, pears, oat bran, and chia seeds are all good sources of insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol in addition to adding a softness to your stool. Soluble fiber should make up about 25% of your total daily fiber intake. Soluble fiber plus fluids adds bulk to your stool and helps to move it through the digestive tract more easily. Ultimately, you want stool to move through your intestines without sticking fast to intestinal walls where it can irritate the lining of your intestine and cause problems.
Insoluble fiber like apple peels don’t break down easily and act as the scrubbers to clean the inside of the intestines as food moves on through. Fiber is not good in the absence of sufficient fluids. Staying hydrated allows fiber to swell appropriately and do its job.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent food sources of fiber. Healthy food sources like whole fruits and vegetables are the best way to get your fiber. Rather than juicing in the new year, try blending the whole fruit with the veg in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix to get the benefit of fiber.
When you need a little extra help meeting your daily fiber needs, naturally-sourced fiber supplements are available. They can be found near the probiotics. Psyllium husks (found in Metamucil) and methycellulose from orange peels (found in Citrucel) are two popular examples of naturally-sourced fibers. Both of these supplements must be taken with sufficient water to work appropriately. Psyllium can cause bloating and gas since it has some insoluble fiber on board. Methylcellulose is mostly soluble fiber and a more optimal choice for those with IBS.
Legumes are great sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Legumes are the fruits or seeds of plants from a specific vegetable family. The Legume family includes pulses, which are seeds inside pods. Chickpeas, kidney beans, and edamame are all pulses, and they are a good food choice for people looking to increase their prebiotic and fiber intake. Chickpeas contain about 11 grams of fiber in ½ cup. Chickpeas are also rich in vegan protein, iron, and B vitamins. Pink or red lentils are also pulses. They are filling, easy to digest, and very healthful. They are a rich source of fiber, containing 8 grams of fiber per ½ cup and help stimulate beneficial bacteria as a prebiotic.
Red kidney beans are easy to include in a range of meals. Kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans not only boost good gut bacteria but are also high in protein and an excellent source of post-workout potassium at a low cost. The nutritional content of these types of beans makes them a great inexpensive staple food to eat regularly. Red kidney beans, for example, contain 5.7 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving.