When I was a kid, my grandmother was always trying to get me to eat a lot of foods you had to chew a lot. “Gives you roughage”, she’d say wisely. “Keeps you regular”.
Well, that was then, this is now.
Our prune-eating grandmothers were onto something, but they had just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Research on fiber is exploding, and its resume of health benefits now extends to weight loss, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, blood sugar management. Fiber is absolutely essential to the care and feeding of a healthy microbiome.
When it comes to weight loss, fiber works like a charm. More than a dozen clinical studies have used dietary fiber supplements for weight loss, most with positive outcomes. (Murray, Encyclopedia of Natural Supplements). Fiber supplements have also been shown to enhance blood sugar control and insulin effects and even to reduce the number of calories (adding up to about 3-18 pounds a year) that the body absorbs (Spiller, 1994).
Remember, the benefits of fiber aren’t limited to weight loss. High blood sugar and high insulin have now been implicated in a baker’s dozen of unwanted degenerative disease, including heart disease. Even Alzheimer’s is now being called “Type 3 Diabetes” because of the connection to insulin resistance, which has consequences not only for your waistline but for your brain as well.
Americans currently get a paltry amount of fiber in their diets, estimated at around 10-11 grams a day. That’s not nearly enough. Current recommendations range from 25-38 grams a day (depending on age and sex) but in my opinion more is better. Our caveman ancestors got much more (between 50 and 100 grams daily, according to most research).
Insoluble fiber is what your grandmother was talking about when she said to eat “roughage”. It doesn’t break down in the gut, so it acts as a “bulking” agent and is really good for reliving constipation.
Soluble fiber does break down in the gut. It’s specifically broken down by good bacteria which do something great with it– they convert it into short-chain-fatty acids (SCFAs), the most important of which is butyric acid (also known as butyrate). The cells that line the gut depend on butyrate for food.
If you’re not getting enough soluble fiber you’re probably not making enough butyric acid, and you may be setting yourself up for gut problems.
Food sources of soluble fiber include beans, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, apples, nuts, blueberries, oranges and flaxseeds. Food sources of insoluble fiber (known to grandma as “roughage”) include the seeds and skins of fruits (eat the peel!), avocados (especially Florida avocados), wheat bran and brown rice. Food sources of resistant starch—a third kind of fiber that also feeds good bacteria— include white beans, chickpeas, lentils, rolled oats, peas, black beans, red beans, kidney beans, unripe bananas, and potato starch.
I’m a big believer in fiber supplements, simply because just about no one gets the ideal amount from food anymore. Dr. Masley and I worked with Thorne Research—one of the most respected vitamin companies in the world—to create what we feel is the world’s best fiber supplement- Fiber Mend. One serving gives you seven grams of fiber, six of which are soluble and will feed the good bacteria in your gut. Fiber Mend blends in perfectly with any smoothie recipe.