Home / The Unsung Hero On The Plate: Fiber

THE UNSUNG HERO ON THE PLATE: FIBER

pop quiz: what has the capacity to change your hunger and satiety cues, expedite removal of waste, curate a healthy microbiome, and bolster your immune system?

If you guessed cauliflower [because well...it appears cauliflower can do anything if it can turn into bread] you are almost correct.

The answer is actually the fiber within cauliflower [and all plants for that matter]. Little baby fiber indeed has the heroic capacity to change wellness if consumed with consistency and in abundance.

Before you reach for a FiberOne bar pause because it’s not that simple. Increasing just one source of isolated fiber in say... wheaties misses the point. Fiber’s value is instead a reflection of it's plant-based source with diversity the key.

Not only does fiber quite literally “feed" your microbiome [the community of bacteria living in your gut] but it also acts like a gentle binding agent, efficiently sweeping out metabolic waste byproducts.

Here’s why including fiber in each and every meal and snack is well worth your time:

blood sugar stability:

Because fiber does not break down into sugar but instead feeds your microbiome, fiber acts to slow the rate of digestion preventing blood sugar spikes, which not only decreases inflammation but also prevents evolution of disease states linked to chronically high blood sugar.

Also fascinating is the “second meal effect.” If you give two people the exact same number of calories from lentils or bread for lunch and then give both white bread for dinner, you’ll see less of a blood sugar spike in the person who had lentils for lunch because the bacteria fed at lunch keep blood sugar in check at dinner by producing short chain fatty acids. More on this to come below.

optimization of hunger + satiety cues:

Because of the way fiber slows down the rate of digestion, it also plays a pivotal role in regulating hormonal signaling [via leptin and grelin] that you are indeed full making hunger and satiety cues more intuitive and less of an act of will.

removal of waste:

Fiber, acts like a little broom that "sweeps your intestines and colon of bacteria” reducing your risk for colon cancer. Turns out for every 5 g of fiber you include decreases rate of colon cancer by 18%.

Part of the protection comes from the induction of regular bowel movements fiber provides. Constipation is a cauldron of disease.
curation of a healthy microbiome:

70% of the immune system lives within our gut curated by a healthy microbiome. By feeding the microbiome with different sources of fiber, not only do you diversify the type of bacteria that lives in the gut but you also increase its richness in density. And here’s the best part: when your microbiome eats fiber, they give back gifts called short chain fatty acids [SCFA].

Short chain fatty acids quell inflammation, bolster the immune system, protect the brain from the formation of amyloid plaques, heal the lining of the gut and optimize genetic expression. Because SCFA play such a tremendous roll in wellness, consider consuming resistant starches [a special form of fiber found into foods such as green bananas or cooled white rice] which amplify the production of SCFA.

cardiovascular protection:

Last but very not least, fiber plays a role in heart health by optimizing output of bile acids by the liver which bind to LDL thereby reducing circulating levels of cholesterol. It takes only 30 g of fiber a day to reduce LDL by 18%.

how much fiber is enough?

When it comes to fiber goals, make diversity your number one target followed by strict amount. Statistically, the most benefits of fiber come from consumption of over 30 different fibers every 2 weeks aiming for > 40 g a day.

how to include and diversify fiber in every meal:

Make it a game! Add 2-3 different colorful vegetables, fruits, roots or legumes to every plate and the diversity will abound. Then start working on abundance. Use the list below to amplify your fiber intake by prioritizing foods richest in fiber noting beans and legumes offer a tremendous reward bite for bite.

what about fiber powders?

While it’s tempting to skip the food part and go straight to your fiber-full goals with powders and bars, start with whole food sources. Once you have a diversity of foods on lockdown, consider weaving in fiber powders to include fibers you don’t eat often in food form. Fiber powders I advocate for include acacia, psyllium, and green banana flour.

Now off you go... stock your pantry and fridge with a diversity of fiber-rich foods so you can have them on hand for your meals. With practice, you’ll be easily be able to turn family staples like pasta and sauce into a fiber-full feast by simply throwing in a few handfuls of greens or beans.