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  • Writer's pictureKevin Maloney

Important Benefits of Fiber And Often Missing Nuance In The Conversation

Kevin in front of a 3 story high fork

You may have seen all the headlines about how American adults are only getting 10-15 grams of fiber on average, often from poor quality sources, and we need to be consuming more. I agree with that and also think there is a bit of nuance missing from the conversation. Let’s explore the health benefits of high-fiber diets first.

The Health Benefits of Fiber

In 2019, the Lancet published an article (the full article can be found at this link) reviewing a series of comprehensive literature searches and statistical combination of the results of multiple studies regarding carbohydrate quality and human health. This review looked at a LOT of data, noting “just under 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials with 4,635 adult participants were included in the analyses.”

So what did they find? “In randomized trials, higher intakes of dietary fiber reduced body weight and lowered blood cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. These findings are supported by cohort studies, which report reduced risk of coronary heart disease incidence and mortality and incidence of diabetes. Additionally, prospective studies show striking reductions in, and dose-response relationships with, all-cause mortality, total cancer deaths, total cardiovascular disease deaths and incidence, stroke incidence, and incidence of colorectal, breast, and esophageal cancer.” In conclusion, they noted that “Intakes in the range of 25–29 g daily are adequate, while the dose-response data suggest that amounts greater than 30 g per day confer additional benefits.”

The Missing Nuance

It sounds like fiber is amazing, right? And since most of us are getting less than half of what we should, we should all just eat more fiber.

I totally agree. I think fiber is amazing, and MOST of us should be aiming to get more in our diets from minimally processed whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, some people will not feel better from adding additional fiber to their diet. These people usually have some type of condition like Irritable Bowel Disease, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or other gut imbalances that can make high-fiber diets problematic.

My Personal Journey

Six years ago, I was one of those people. I was dealing with an autoimmune irritable bowel disease called collagenous colitis, a form of microscopic colitis (learn more about my journey here). When that condition was active, additional fiber would just irritate my gut and make my symptoms worse. After addressing my root cause, healing my leaky gut, and putting my condition in remission, I was able to gradually increase my fiber intake. Today, I average a daily fiber intake of over 50 grams.

Tips for Adding Fiber to Your Diet

Whether or not you have a chronic condition, here are some tips for adding fiber to your diet:

  • Listen to Your Body: Increase fiber intake slowly and pay attention to how your body reacts (a journal might help). You don’t want to overwhelm all those helpful microbe buddies in your gut. 

  • Chew Thoroughly: Digestion starts in the mouth. This helps your stomach and intestines process fiber better. Blending fibrous foods can also help.

  • Try Different Fiber Sources: Some people might not tolerate certain fibers like brussels sprouts but can handle others like berries.

  • Seek Professional Help: If additional fiber worsens your symptoms, consult a healthcare professional to address the root cause.

Tracking Your Fiber Intake

People often misjudge their food intake. I personally am not really a fan of tracking my food on a daily basis as it does not resonate with me.  I normally just focus on the ‘mirror test,’ what the scale shows and paying close attention to how my body feels and reacts.  That being said, I do think tracking your food for a week can be extremely helpful and eye opening.  When I have done that in the past, I was shocked to find out how many servings of things like olive oil and tahini I was actually eating!

To validate my fiber intake claim, I did an “operational fiber audit” of what was at the end of my fork (which is a bit smaller than the one in the picture) on a typical day. Below is the list of just the items I consumed that contained fiber.

  • Sauerkraut - 3 servings - 2.5g fiber

  • Carrot - 1 Large - 2g fiber

  • Daikon - 150g - 2.5g fiber

  • Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat - ¼ cup - 1g fiber

  • Plant Protein Powder - 1 serving - 2g fiber

  • Acacia, Inulin & Psyllium Powder - 1 serving - 6g fiber

  • Moringa Leaf Powder - 1 serving - 1g fiber

  • Cacao Powder - 1 serving - 2g fiber

  • Hemp Seeds - 1 serving - 3g fiber

  • Basil Seeds - 1 serving - 15g fiber

  • Brazil Nuts - ⅛ cup - 1g fiber

  • Pecans - ⅓ cup - 3g fiber

  • Wild Blueberries - ½ cup - 2.5g fiber

  • Pumpkin Seeds - ¼ cup - 2g fiber

  • Green Pea Pasta - 2 servings - 10g fiber

  • Tomato Basil Sauce - 3 servings - 6g fiber

  • Nutritional Yeast - 1 serving - 4g fiber

  • Green Onion - ½ cup - 1.5g fiber

  • Broccoli Sprouts - ½ cup - 1g fiber

  • Pineapple - 100g - 1.5g fiber

  • Tahini - 2 servings - 10g fiber

  • Lots of herbs & spices - unknown 

Total: 79.5g! Including herbs and spices, that’s 80g of fiber. Years ago, this would have caused serious gut pain. Today, I feel stronger and better than ever when it comes to my gut health.

Final Thoughts

I hope this inspires you to meet or exceed the USDA’s suggested fiber intake (14 grams per 1,000 calories of food) and make small, sustained changes to your fiber intake to help you thrive!

If you have any health & wellness goals and are ready to become the most resilient version of yourself, book a free discovery call here to see if we are a great fit.



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