Let’s face it: None of us gets as much fiber in our diets as we should. Although most of us are aware of the benefits of an adequate fiber intake, it can be hard to get enough from our modern diets. Bleached and refined grains contribute to the problem, as does processed and fast foods. Fiber aids in digestion and prevents a host of diseases, such as high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure.
So, if we know it is beneficial, why do most of us lack the proper amount in our daily diets? Let’s look into the mystery of fiber and find ways to get healthier by increasing our consumption.
A lack of fiber results in endless amounts of ailments and issues, like:
- Muscle Cramps
- Feeling Bloated
- Tender Abdomen
If you find yourself fighting any or all of these problems, you could likely benefit from body detox, or even a colon cleanse, simply by taking in more fiber.
Here are some of the most common questions surrounding fiber:
- What is auto-intoxication, and why is it a problem?
- What do the experts have to say about fiber and colon health?
- What is fiber and how does it help my body?
- What are the typical high-fiber foods I can eat?
- How can I learn to take in more fiber consistently?
- What are the pros and cons of taking fiber supplements instead of eating fiber-rich foods?
- Where can I get more information on fiber?
Auto-Intoxication: Reasons It’s No Joking Matter
To put it in layman’s terms, auto-intoxication is when your body poisons itself with the toxins it creates in the digestion process. When you eat your food and your stomach breaks it down, it passes to your small intestine and eventually your large intestine, which is also known as the colon.
The material that accumulates in your colon is meant to be waste because it is what your body doesn’t need. It is the remains of the food that your body needs to get rid of after it’s taken out the nutrients it can use.
If you don’t have regular bowel movements to eliminate the waste that has built up, it becomes compacted in your large intestine, which stagnates your digestive tract and begins to release toxins into your bloodstream. That’s what leads to many of the problems you may be experiencing.
To be more specific, the excess proteins rot, carbohydrates ferment and create a form of alcohol, and fat builds up in your colon. Your body goes into panic mode to eliminate the waste, and the method it uses can cause you to suffer from an illness.
Your Colon Health: What the Experts Say
If you think colon health is not important, thing again. Here are some things experts say regarding colon health:
- Richard Schulze:“We won, America, we won! Our lack of attention on good elimination and digestive health… has awarded Americans with the highest level of digestive disorders, bowel disease, and colon cancer in the world.”
- Richard Schulze:“Our own fecal matter starts to slowly poison us, infecting and rotting tissue, degenerating our bowel… and eventually killing us.” –Dr. Richard Schulze
- Ellen G. White: “The impurities of the body, if not allowed to escape, are taken back into the blood and forced upon the internal organs.”
- Bernard Jensen: “In the 50 years I’ve spent helping people overcome illness, disability and disease, it has become crystal clear that poor bowel management lies at the root of most people’s health problems.”
- Bernard Jensen: “An autopsy revealed a stagnant colon to weigh in at an incredible 40 pounds. Imagine carrying all that morbid accumulated waste.”
- John Kellogg: “Of the 22,000 operations I have personally performed, I have never found a single normal colon.”
- The Journal of American Academy of Dermatology: “Auto-intoxication has been blamed for a long list of health problems, including depression and serious skin conditions.”
What Is Fiber and How Can It Help You?
Also known as roughage, dietary fiber is a plant-based material that your body cannot digest, so it helps your body brush away the fecal matter that clings to the inside of your colon. In other words, as it passes through your digestive tract, it scrapes everything clean.
Fiber is classified as a complex carbohydrate, which means that it requires a significant amount of time and energy to allow the body to use it. Dietary fiber falls into two separate categories:
This type, by definition, dissolves in water. It creates a thick gel, which functions as a drain cleaner throughout your intestines. Foods with soluble fiber include:
This type remains a solid and functions to increase the bulk of feces, which makes it easier to pass. Foods containing insoluble fiber include:
- Whole-Wheat Flour
- Wheat Bran
- Green Beans
However, regular bowel activity is not the only benefit of a high-fiber diet. Other benefits of a sufficient fiber intake include:
- Lowering bad cholesterol levels. It helps the body remove low-density lipoproteins.
- Regulating blood sugar levels. For those who struggle with diabetes, fiber helps the body metabolize sugar better and even slow the absorption of it, which stabilizes blood glucose levels. It may even help prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Helping with weight loss. Because your body doesn’t digest fiber, it helps you stay fuller longer, making you less likely to overeat or over-indulge in unhealthy snacks. Foods that are rich in fiber are less energy-dense, so they provide fewer calories for the same volume of food.
How much fiber do you need? According to The Institute of Medicine, the average American only gets between 12 and 15 grams of fiber each day. They recommend the following amounts of fiber, depending on your age and gender:
- Men ages 50 or under: At least 38 grams of fiber daily.
- Men over the age of 50: At least 30 grams.
- Women 50 or under: At least 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Women over 50: At least 21 grams of daily fiber.
An important fact to note is when you begin to take in more fiber, you will feel more bloated and cramped if you do not do it gradually. As you increase your intake, drink more water, which will not only keep you hydrated, but also help your body adjust its natural bacteria to balance with the changes in your diet.
What You Should Eat: Healthy Foods High in Fiber
Here are some foods that will provide you with fiber:
- Barley and Buckwheat
- Air-Popped Popcorn
- Oats and Millet
- Rye Flour and Crackers
- Quinoa and Wild Rice
- Whole Wheat Bread and Pasta
- Raspberries and Strawberries
- Blueberries and Blackberries
- Red or White Currants
- Boysenberries and Gooseberries
- Lima and Fava
- Black and White
- Garbanzo and Pinto
- Kidney and Navy
Seeds and Nuts:
- Almonds and Pistachios
- Cashews and Peanuts
- Sunflower, Pumpkin and Flaxseeds
Greens and Vegetables:
- Kale and Kohlrabi
- Red and Savoy Cabbage
- Brussels sprouts and Artichokes
- Broccoli and Cauliflower
- Turnip, Collard, Beet and Mustard Greens
- Spinach and Swiss Chard
- Split and Green Peas
- Hubbard and Acorn Squash
- Sweet and Russet Potatoes
- Apples and Pears
- Bananas and Peaches
- Dried Prunes and Figs
- Oranges and Avocadoes
The Challenge: Ways to Increase Your Intake
Now that you know several foods you can nosh on to boost your dietary fiber intake, here are some fast and simple to incorporate those foods into your regular diet:
1. Try a variety of fiber sources. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s hard to stick with new diets, so you can add interest to the process by changing it up every time you go for it. Not to mention, different types of foods have different ratios of soluble and insoluble fiber, which, as mentioned earlier, each have their benefits.
2. Start your day off the right way. When you wake up, don’t skip breakfast. Force yourself to eat something packed with fiber. It doesn’t have to be anything large. Opt for fresh fruit and a piece of whole wheat toast. That way, it’ll set the tone for the rest of the day and put you on track to keep taking in fiber.
3. Check the label. When you buy foods that are already prepared, search for things that read whole grain, high fiber or rich in fiber on the package.
4. Try the exotic grains. You may be stuck in a rut of whole grain spaghetti and whole grain bread, but you could be surprised by just how much you enjoy other grains, like amaranth or wheat berries, so break up the monotony by trying one new type each week.
5. Don’t forget to hydrate. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day to make things go down smoother and kick up the power your fiber can provide.
6. Eat the skin on your fruits and veggies. Some people peel apples and pears, and don’t eat the skin on their baked potatoes, but that’s where all the fiber is, so eat them as-is to get the full benefits.
7. Take your time. If you triple your fiber intake all at once, your body will get overwhelmed. Ramp up your intake a little at a time, adding more each week.
8. Pack some snacks when you’re not home for the day. Between meals, when hunger sets in, don’t hit the vending machine for something with high calories and low fiber. Instead, put a container of nuts or air-popped popcorn in your bag to stave off hunger and give you a fiber boost.
9. Reach for whole grains as opposed to refined or processed wheat products. The bran or shell of the grain is where all the fiber is, and the refining process takes that away.
10. Replace mayonnaise with hummus. If you like a creamy boost on your sandwiches, try something healthier. Hummus is made with chickpeas, which are packed with fiber, and it tastes just as good.
11. Opt for high-fiber snacks. Keep lots of high-fiber snacks in your pantry and simply don’t buy unhealthy snacks.
12. Once or twice a week, replace meat with beans. It’s just as hearty, and you’ll get far more fiber.
13. Go for the real thing. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat the actual fruit with the skin on if the skin is edible, of course.
14. Fortify your foods. In this case, you have to buy artificial fiber supplements, but instead, just add a tablespoon of flaxseed or wheat germ to your baked goods, cereal, or smoothies. You get extra fiber, and it’s no extra effort.
15. Eat oatmeal often. Replace breadcrumbs with oatmeal in your meatloaf or baked mac and cheese. Sprinkle it on top of your ice cream. Use it in place of half of the flour you put in baked goods. A little bit can go a long way.
16. Add pureed cauliflower to your mashed potatoes. It won’t change the flavor, but will add lots of extra fiber and flavor.
Cooking with Fiber: Simple Recipes for You to Try
Here’s a sample recipe you can try for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that all have a high fiber content.
Breakfast Muffin Tin Frittatas
Yield: 12 individual frittatas
- Eight eggs
- A half cup of milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A half cup of diced mushrooms
- A quarter cup of chopped spinach
- A quarter cup of diced bell pepper
- A third cup of grated parmesan
- Two tablespoons of chopped chives
- Two tablespoons of chopped parsley
- Two tablespoons of wheat germ
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, wheat germ, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Sauté the spinach, mushrooms and bell pepper until they’re tender and then stir them into your egg mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin.
- Sprinkle cheese on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until it is light and fluffy and your eggs are cooked through.
- Cool slightly and enjoy warm.
Lunchtime Avocado Chickpea Salad Pitas
Yields four servings using two full pitas, sliced in half.
- 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- One ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
- Three tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- One cup baby spinach leaves
- One medium tomato, sliced
- Two whole wheat pita pockets
- In a bowl, combine the chickpeas, avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Mash them with a fork or masher until a bit chunky.
- Slice the pitas in half and spoon in the salad mixture.
- Add spinach and tomato slices.
- Eat immediately or refrigerate the salad mixture separately from the pitas, spinach and tomato.
Dinnertime Southwest Potato Skins
Yield: six servings
- Six large potatoes
- One teaspoon olive oil
- One teaspoon chili powder
- An eighth teaspoon hot sauce
- Six slices turkey bacon, chopped
- One medium tomato, diced
- Two tablespoons green onions, sliced
- A half cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
- Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.
- Wash the potatoes and poke them with a fork.
- Microwave potatoes until soft, roughly eight minutes.
- Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out most of the flesh, saving it for another meal.
- Mix together the olive oil, chili powder and hot sauce and brush it onto the skins.
- Top with bacon, tomatoes and cheese.
- Bake for 10 minutes and serve immediately.
Crunchy Snack Mix
Yield: four servings
Just mix the following ingredients together:
- A half cup of dried cherries
- Two cups whole grain cereal of your choice
- A half cup of walnuts
- One cup of whole-wheat pretzels
If you are missing any of these ingredients, be creative and add some favorites of your choice, like raisins, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
Another Source: The Pros and Cons of Taking Fiber Supplements
If you’re searching for a fast way to get fiber without changing your diet, taking supplements may not be a wise idea. Here are the pros and cons of fiber supplements that don’t come from your food:
The top pros include:
- All the same benefits. You can get most the same benefits you can get by eating more fiber through your foods, such as regular bowel function, reduced risks of colon cancer and body cleansing.
- Supplements are quick and easy. You don’t need to change your diet, yet you still get the fiber you need.
The top cons include:
- You should talk to your doctor first. Not only can they interact with prescription drugs you may be taking, but certain types are unsafe if you have certain medical conditions, too.
- They can create a drug dependency. The makeup of supplements is not the same as natural fiber. They’re artificial, and so your body will not process them the same way it would process fiber you take in from your diet.
- They’re habit-forming. Whereas you can control the intake of fiber in your food, it’s not as easy to do so with supplements, and they often have more fiber than you need, which will make your body extra dependent on the fiber. If you choose to stop taking them down the line, you will need to eat much more fiber than if you never took them.
- You need to drink a lot more water. Because they have more fiber than you need, you also would need to consume much more water, which isn’t always easy to do.
Things to Remember
While the majority of Americans don’t take in the required amount of fiber to help their bodies function properly, awareness is growing and more products are available in your local grocery store that can bring you sufficient amounts of fiber. When you start to add more fiber to your diet, be sure to do so gradually, increasing your intake of water each day.
Try out new recipes and don’t be afraid to sample healthier foods. Choose one to try each week. You’ll be surprised at just how much better you feel when you take in the suggested amount of fiber. Your fatigue may melt away, your headaches could disappear, your muscle aches could cease and any problems you may have with constipation will be a thing of the past.