Building meal plans can be confusing with all the contradictory diet advice out there. There are however six key elements every meal plan should include. Today we are diving deeper into element number four: Fiber.
The next two topics we are going to cover are going to actually be two different aspects of the same macronutrient; carbohydrates. We are breaking them down into two because each one performs a vital function and is also a missing component in the American diet.
Now to get down to the not so elegant benefit of carbohydrates; fiber. Why isn’t it the pretty part of this puzzle? Well you see when you have enough fiber in your diet, you digestive system works properly which means you poop more, barring any medical conditions (you’re going to see this alot, most of the advice and information you see here will depend on health and certain medical conditions may need special diets or meal plans so it’s always good to consult your doctor and ask what should be normal for you.)
Fiber is mostly found in plants; fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (you know carbs.) Not only does this nutrient help get things moving in your body, it can also help with weight management, provide nourishment to your good gut bacteria and lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
So what is it? Fiber refers to the parts of plants are bodies can’t digest. Essentially their entire function is to act like a battering ram to push other things through your digestive system and keep your pipes clean.
Fiber comes in two types:
- Soluble: which dissolves in water to make a gel like material that feeds your gut bacteria
- Insoluble: Stays solid, pushing stuff through your digestive system and making your stool nice and solid.
Good sources of fiber include: oats, brown rice, peas, beans, apples, cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.
In a healthy digestive system you should eliminate about 30 minutes after you eat. This is not your food going right through you but rather the fiber from your previous meal doing its job and pushing out the leftovers from the meal you had before, as the meal you just ingested enters the body to start adding nourishment.
So how much fiber do you need? The average American is only getting 14 grams a day! For women under 50 the recommended amount is 25 grams, over 50 is 21 grams. For men under 50 you need 38 grams and over 50 you need 30.
You need a good mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber to make your system perform optimally and when your digestive system is working at its highest you feel better and get sicker less. 80% of you immune system is in your gut so get to feeding those good bacteria what they love to eat. As you increase your fiber intake it is also important to make sure you are drinking enough water to make sure that fiber has the flush behind its bulk!
Also do note if you are getting enough fiber and drinking enough water and things still aren’t moving talk to your doctor. There are certain medical conditions that can make things not flow properly. A client of mine was doing everything right and when no diet change would get stuff moving I sent her to her doctor who ended up needing to remove her gallbladder but thanked us for eliminating several steps that typically lead to searching for a more serious condition including:
- keeping a log of fiber and water intake
- eliminating dairy and then gluten to see if it triggered symptoms
- adding in a fiber supplement
- keeping a food log and noting how each food affected bowel movements
In closing fiber is important, but also know that sometimes we can do everything right and it might not work. If you think something is off talk to your doctor.