Can you guess what the number one nutrient for weight loss and disease prevention is? It's known to reduce inflammation, keep your heart healthy, clear up your skin, stabilize your blood sugar, promote mental health, increase longevity, and even prevent cancer. The best part? It can be found in every plant on earth. Yep, I'm talking about fiber! Here's why you need to eat more fiber if you want to lose weight and prevent disease...and how to make sure you get enough daily.
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Did you know fiber is a carbohydrate. What?! A carb for weight loss?!
I know, wild.
Turns out, carbohydrates aren’t the bad guys when it comes to your health or your weight. You just have to make sure you're choosing whole carbohydrates. Whole grains and white potatoes are actually key weight loss foods, believe it or not.
Did you also know that 97 percent of Americans are fiber deficient? Even more staggering, most Americans get less than half of the daily recommendation. Yikes!
And when you consider that fiber is found naturally in fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and abundantly in beans and legumes, it makes sense why so many Americans struggle with chronic illness...we aren't eating enough plants!
Unfortunately, stealthy marketing has most consumers more interested in trendy nutrients and “getting enough protein,” which *spoiler* only three percent of American’s are deficient in.
So let’s take a moment to shift our attention back to fiber. Why is it such a superpower, and how will an increased dose affect your body?
1. Easier Weight Loss
Studies show that with no calorie restriction, a high fiber plant based diet leads to significant weight loss and stabilized blood sugar. This study achieved the most significant weight loss for the long term, too. In fact, those who joined the program experienced the best results of any weight loss study ever published in medical literature, because of their sustained weight loss!
What's going on here? Well, without calorie restriction, a plant-based diet is sustainable and it's got such positive side effects, from regularity to mental clarity to sustained energy to disease prevention. The focus is: quality, not quantity.
2. Better Gut Health
Higher fiber intake associated with lower risk of hospitalization or death of diverticulitis, and being on a plant-based diet puts you at 78% lower risk of getting the disease itself.
It turns out, our gut microbiomes run primarily on fiber. Fiber promotes good bacteria growth. When we consume fiber, our gut produces short-chain fatty acids that aid in the growth of the cells that line our colons, suppress inflammation, and fight disease.
Without fiber, we can't feed our good gut bacteria, resulting in dysbiosis, which is an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This overgrowth can lead to inflammatory disease (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for starters).
A healthy gut also means a healthy heart, brain, and skin! The gut is very connected to the rest of your body, and is even referred to as the second brain.
3. Boosted Mental Health
You know how you feel a little down after binging on junk food? This reaction isn't just psychological, it's also chemical and biological!
Your mental health is directly affected by your gut health, which can overtime be controlled by what you eat. And fiber seems to play a pivotal role on your gut health (and consequently, your mental health).
Here's the deal: Our guts and brains are connected by neurotransmitters that transmit chemicals between nerve cells during a process called synapses. These endogenous chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, help control our emotions.
Our gut actually produces a ton of these neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin, or the “feel good” chemical. And get this: high fiber plant foods increase your neuroplasticity, making that transmission during synapse more effective. That is why a healthy gut full of good bacteria can help your mood and reduce anxiety and depression.
4. A Healthier Heart
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the US. But studies show it doesn't have to be this way. Those who consume even the minimum requirement of fiber have 23% less risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
5. Reduced Risk for Diabetes and More Controlled Blood Sugar Levels
The average American only takes in 10-15 grams of fiber a diet but we really need closer to 40-50 grams for optimal health. Did you know the lowest risk for diabetes is with those who follow a mostly plant based diet (AKA, lots of fiber).
And it's not just about prevention. A high fiber diet is associated with lower death rates among the diabetic community. Fiber is a carbohydrate that isn't broken down by your body so it doesn't raise blood sugar levels. Fiber adds bulk as it moves through your digestive tracts, which keeps you feeling full longer and less likely to overeat.
6. Reduced Risk for Cancer
Those who consumed even the minimum requirement of fiber were at 17% less risk of dying of cancer. Why? Good bacteria like butyrate has anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties. And fiber promotes the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria, so no surprise: vegetarians are found to have a much higher concentration of butyrate-producing genes.
8. Less Inflammation (and Fewer Aches and Pains)
Have joint pain?
Or are you an athlete looking to recover after a tough workout?
Eat more fiber! Fiber releases butyrate into your bloodstream promoting anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show that even just the minimum requirement of dietary fiber (which 97% of American don’t get) is associated with less joint pain in the short and long term.
7. A Longer Life!
Boost your longevity with plants! Yep, once again even the minimum requirement of fiber pays off, giving folks 23 percent less chance of early mortality.
OK, all these benefits of fiber sound pretty sweet right...but how do you make sure you get enough?
You’ve seen fiber-enriched cereals, powders, and bars, no doubt. But it’s not all that complicated. Just do like your Mama used to tell you: eat your fruits and veggies.
Wait...in order to prevent debilitating disease, live longer, have a better quality of life, avoid hospital beds and bills, take less medication, and be more able bodied (so you can do what you love for longer)...you just need to eat more fruits and veggies?
Yep. It's that simply. The more plants you eat, the healthier you will look, feel, and be.
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- 97 percent of Americans are fiber-deficient because we don't eat enough plant-based foods!
- Fiber is a carbohydrate that helps you lose weight, improve your gut health, boost your heart health, and improve your longevity!
- Getting enough fiber is as simple as eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. (Or ordering MamaSezz ready-made plant-based meals!)
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.