Should I Care About My Fiber Intake?
Updated: Jul 2
Alright if you have been anywhere near the diet industry in the past few years, you probably would have seen the craze of the Carnivore diet light a storm through the internet.
If not, here’s a quick download on what you missed (or didn’t miss really).
It’s essentially a diet where only animal-products are consumed, think meat, organs, butter, eggs… and no plant-products, so no grains, no vegetables, and no fruits.
Even as a meat lover, I still personally find this pretty disgusting.
Imagine steak and eggs on the menu twice a day, seven days a week… *gasps*.
My preferences aside, one big reason this diet is problematic is because it leaves out fiber from the equation completely.
Imagine again, 1 week into your Carnivore diet, and sitting on your toilet bowl every morning, feeling like you are shitting rocks. Don't say I didn't warn you.
And.... because that is how things are nowadays - one particular food group is demonized completely, usually by people who spout incomplete information and a lack of context, I feel the need to jump in and defend it with science and sense!
So that’s exactly what we are going to do in this article on Dietary fiber.
We are going to look at what it is, why we need it, how much to eat, the whole works, let’s dig in!
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is a plant-based compound that is not fully digested in the human gut.
It is a type of carbohydrate, that falls under the complex carbs category.
I'm not joking.
Carbohydrates are an umbrella term that include simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbs are carbs typically found in processed or refined sugars that are broken down extremely quickly by the body (examples: corn syrup, sugar, fruit juice concentrate, honey, refined sugars in pastries, cookies, cereal, etc).
Complex carbs on the other hand are carbs made up of longer, complex chains of sugar molecules that take longer to digest (examples: beans, oats, buckwheat, leafy greens, carrots, apples, potatoes, etc).
Different Types of Fiber and its Health Benefits
There are two types of fiber- soluble and insoluble fiber.
There are benefits that apply across the board for both, and also specific benefits that soluble and insoluble fiber each provide. These are all detailed below.
Properties of Soluble Fiber vs Insoluble Fiber
Soluble Fiber can be metabolized in the stomach by gut bacteria which produces short-chain fatty acids. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, where it will form a thick gel-like substance in your stomach.
Insoluble Fiber cannot be broken down by the body. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, instead, it stays relatively intact.
Function and Benefits
FIBER (AS A WHOLE)
Adds bulk to our diet which increases satiation - helps us to feel fuller for longer
Slows digestion - by slowing down the rate at which carbs are absorbed into our bloodstream. This helps regulate our blood glucose and prevent rapid rises in blood sugar after a carbohydrate-containing meal.
Slows down the digestive process by delaying gastric emptying.
Improves glycemic control, blood pressure, and lipid profile (LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol)
Has benefits on colonic health, by aiding in the bulking of the stool which helps promote healthy and regular bowel movement and reduces constipation.
Probably the most pressing reason
Apart from the reasons listed above, what makes fiber so important is the simple fact that we do not get enough of it in our diets currently.
The foods which make up almost half of our daily intake include refined sugars, oils, dairy products, and alcohol, all of which contain zero fiber.
Keeping in mind that dietary fiber comes only from plant-based foods, it’s very easy to see that fiber intake is something that a lot of us are lacking in our diets currently.
Staggering stats show that Americans consume about 15 grams of fiber per day, on average (17.8 g for males and 13.6 g for females).
This is way below the current research which puts the minimum fiber intake suggestion, at between 25 to 29 grams per day, for the purpose of lowering the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality and incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer.
The amount of fiber you need should vary proportionately to your current calorie intake. As a general rule of thumb, the recommended dietary intake for both children and adults stands at at least 14 grams of fiber per 1000 kcal. So if you’re eating 2000 calories, you should be eating at least 28 grams of fiber per day.
Dietary Fiber and Its Impact on Weight and Fat Loss
All things equal, fiber intake has an inverse relationship with body weight and body fat.
Dietary fiber aids in weight management primarily by promoting satiation which helps you feel
fuller longer causing you to eat less.
It also decreases the absorption of macronutrients as insoluble fiber particularly cannot be fully digested, meaning the body is not able to absorb any energy from it. This sounds counterintuitive, but it's a good thing when we are trying to control calorie intake.
And lastly, fiber helps to regulate the gut microbiota.
Interestingly, studies also show that normal weight adults tend to consume more fiber and fruit than their age and height matched overweight and obese counterparts.
This is all well and good, but it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Remember when it comes down to it, losing weight requires being in a calorie deficit.
You could eat all the fiber in the world, but if you are not in a calorie deficit, you will still not lose any weight.
That said, when you are intentionally filling your meals with fiber rich foods, and of course when you are managing your calorie balance, you are doing yourself a massive favor and setting yourself up for future success.
This is because you are practicing