Most of us aren’t strangers to bloating, cramps, and different digestive woes. In half, it’s as a result of we’re lacking a key nutrient for correct digestion: fiber. We’re very poor (and experts aren’t thrilled). But it’s no shock—the Standard American Diet is virtually devoid of fiber. We obsess over carbs and protein, however we neglect fiber’s tiny however mighty influence. And thus, we’re overfed however undernourished. Without additional ado, let’s break down the deets on fiber, how to enhance your digestion via diet, and straightforward to digest greens! It is likely to be time to attain for an additional serving of greens, high your breakfast with berries, or mud off your blender.
Featured picture by Michelle Nash.
Closing America’s Fiber Gap
When we talk about the pitfalls of the American diet, we tend to focus on our excessive amounts of processed sugar, desk salt, and nutrient-devoid calories. In flip, we neglect to discuss our lack of fiber. There’s a nuance to fiber’s absence, however principally, it comes down to publicity. We’re inspired to purchase processed meals (for their comfort and style), and what quick meals joints supply doesn’t make it any simpler. Said in a different way: we’re not consuming actual meals.
Because of this, we’ve wedged ourselves into the fiber gap. Centuries in the past, it wasn’t this manner. The human species has historically advanced to eat fiber—a whole lot of it. In truth, lengthy earlier than we realized to cultivate animals, we subsisted on primarily fiber-heavy fruits, roots, shoots, nuts, and seeds. We ate with the seasons and consumed fiber in abundance. Without a doubt, we ate loads of straightforward to digest greens.
What is fiber?
Let’s rewind. Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate. It features a broad spectrum of plant-based materials (polysaccharides, pectin, guar gum, and many others.) that the physique can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are damaged down into sugar molecules, fiber is an outlier. Instead, fiber passes via the physique, undigested. It comes alongside for the journey—which is exactly why it’s so necessary. Fiber helps decrease constipation, regulates starvation cues, retains blood sugar in verify, slows glucose absorption, promotes coronary heart well being, and extra. The FDA has a useful, easy-to-digest information on fiber here.
4 Tips to Slowly Eat More Fiber
To begin, consider the notion of “crowding out”—the more fiber-rich ingredients you add to your plate, the more you’ll naturally crowd out more processed, nutrient-devoid foods. Using the tips below, consider where it makes sense for you to begin adding more fiber into your diet.
Take Advantage of Meal Prep
Begin meal prepping more plant-based foods. You’ll be much more likely to reach for foods with fiber when they’re ready to go (and easy to see). Take a peek at these high-fiber recipes for inspo.
Rather than add high-fiber foods all at once, add 1-2 servings a day to your regular diet. Do this for a week, let your body adjust, then add another serving the following week.
Consider Simple Swaps
For example: your regular bowl of cereal for high-fiber cereal, white pasta for 100% complete wheat pasta, berries as a substitute of a banana, and a high-fiber protein bar as a substitute of your traditional grab-and-go snack.
Food is enjoyable! Enjoy an alternate weekend breakfast, like this lovely (and useful) breakfast board. Eating extra fiber doesn’t require pounding wheat bran.
What Foods Have Fiber?
You’ll find fiber in fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. A good rule of thumb: whole foods—rich in color—are often high in fiber. Just another reason to eat the rainbow! Cooked or uncooked, produce is an unimaginable supply of fiber. However, studies present that for the very best fiber retention, eat your greens uncooked (or as shut to uncooked) as doable. Cooking your veggies, via boiling, roasting, and many others., can cut back the fiber by nearly half. If you’re new to consuming fiber, cook dinner your veggies. By trial and error, you’ll discover what works greatest for your physique. Start sluggish and work your approach up.
Below is a brief record of fiber-rich meals, full with their approximate fiber content material:
- 1 cup edamame: 18 grams
- 1 cup lentils: 16 grams
- 1 cup black beans: 15 grams
- 1 cup garbanzo beans: 12 grams
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds: 10 grams
- 1 cup raspberries: 8 grams
- 1/2 cup uncooked pistachios: 7 grams
- 1 persimmon: 6 grams
- 1 cup broccoli: 5 grams
- 1/2 cup avocado: 5 grams
How Vegetables Improve Digestion
So, how do vegetables improve digestion? They’re loaded with fiber, acting as a mop for your intestines and colon. They sweep up toxins and keep things moving through the intestines. In turn, vegetables help prevent constipation. Not to mention, fiber-rich vegetables signal to the body that you’re full and satiated. And don’t skip the skins! The skins of vegetables (potatoes, beans, and legumes) are rich in fiber, so it’s best to consume them whole.
5 Easy to Digest Vegetables
From the aforementioned list, you can glean which foods aid in gut health. These are known to improve digestion. That said, take this list with a grain of salt. We all have different food allergies and intolerances!
Leafy greens, such as spinach, collard greens, or kale, are excellent sources of fiber. They’re also rich in nutrients like folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Research exhibits that leafy greens additionally comprise a selected kind of sugar that helps gas the expansion of wholesome intestine micro organism. Plus, greens assist your intestines push waste out of the physique. Along with salads, add greens to your eggs, smoothies, and pasta.
Did you understand that one medium artichoke has almost seven grams of fiber? Studies present that artichokes can truly assist management signs of irritable bowel syndrome, and they’ve been shown to protect the liver. Most importantly, artichokes contain prebiotics, which allow your gut’s good bacteria to flourish. They’re incredibly versatile—jarred artichokes (marinated in olive oil) are delicious on a charcuterie board, in a sandwich, on a salad, etc.
Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, are gut powerhouses. They’ve been linked to better digestive health and variety of the microbiome. They’re recognized for lowering threat of colorectal cancer and decreasing inflammation of the colon. Their prebiotic fiber might help decrease irritation, too. If you’re not repeatedly consuming cruciferous greens, add them to your weight-reduction plan in small quantities (to begin). Consult your doctor when you have a thyroid dysfunction, as giant quantities of cruciferous greens are sometimes discouraged.
Legumes—a category of greens that features beans, peas and lentils—are amongst among the most versatile and nutritious meals accessible. And they’re full of fiber. Specifically, they comprise a fiber known as oligosaccharides. In essence, beans assist shuttle vitamins into your bloodstream and hold toxins out. They’re a beautiful approach to kill two birds with one stone: up your fiber consumption and enhance your plant range. Keep canned beans available to mix-and-match!
Turns out, butternut squash is one of the best foods for improving gut health and digestion. Reason being? It’s loaded with dietary fiber. One cup of cooked butternut squash contains about seven grams of fiber. That said, no matter which type of squash you choose—acorn squash, kabocha squash, summer squash, etc.—you’ll find a decent amount of fiber. These easy to digest vegetables provide both insoluble and soluble fiber. We love squash in salads, as a side dish, or alongside scrambled eggs.