For all kinds of reasons, some nutrients get more spotlight than others. The most common reason often stems from some misunderstood study that promises to heal every issue that exists. The media gets its hands on this info (or mis-info) and then, before you know it, the entire world thinks all you have to do is take XYZ in order to cure every disease.
I get questions on a regular basis from friends, family and clients. They start with something like, “I read a meme on social media about how XYZ can cure cancer… Do you agree?”
No, no matter what the “XYZ” is, there is no one substance that can overpower every other aspect of health.
That said, if there were one thing that is critical at least as a foundation for healing anything, it would be fiber.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down in the human digestive tract. However, it still has many useful properties to the body. Fiber fills the stomach, improves blood sugar and works like an intestinal broom to clean waste from the body.
An essential nutrient is a nutrient required for the normal functioning of the body that cannot be created in the body (and thus must come from food). Vitamins and minerals are other examples of essential nutrients. Fiber should be considered an essential nutrient and is key for optimal health because:
- Fiber functions as food for the microbiome of the gut. A healthy microbiome is associated with many health promoting factors such a strong immune system1, preventing disease2, a key factor in proper digestion3, elimination4, reduced inflammation in the body5, improved brain function and mental wellness6 and can actually produce vitamins and various nutrients.7
- Fiber-rich foods are filling and at a lower caloric density rate than many non-fibrous foods. In other words, you can get full on fewer calories. This has tremendous implications for achieving and maintaining an ideal bodyweight as a high-fiber diet is associated with a lower rate of obesity and overweight.8
- I would submit that you cannot have optimal health without fiber. A diet lacking in fiber is associated with gastrointestinal disorders9 and … it is also associated with hernias, obesity, allergies and cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and pancreas.10
For these 3 reasons alone, it is clear that fiber is needed to living a healthy life. And since the body cannot make its own fiber, it should without a doubt be moved to an essential nutrient status. Also, if you haven’t gathered already, another key factor about fiber is that it is ONLY FOUND IN PLANTS. That should give us some indicator about the importance of eating lots of whole food plants. You CANNOT get fiber from meat, dairy, eggs or other animal products.
How do you know if you’re getting enough fiber?
The RDA for fiber is 25-30 grams/day. This is a low standard for sure. This should be a minimum. I easily consume double this on a daily basis … and you can too if you’re eating mainly whole food plants. All fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils are loaded with fiber!
If you have trouble with constipation, high blood pressure or immune stress, you may not be getting enough fiber. One of the easiest ways to start your day with TONS of delicious fiber-rich foods is by drinking a fresh green smoothie. Why wait? Get healthy now by increasing your fiber and over all vitality by making a change! You can do this. Put it to the test starting today!
1. Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, et al. The effects of vegetarian and vegan diets on gut microbiota. Front Nutr. 2019. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00047
2. Jardine M. The relationship between microbiota and the environment, nutrition and metabolic disease. Pr Diabetol. 2017;36(6):6-14.
3. Oliphant K, Allen-Vercoe E. Macronutrient metabolism by the human gut microbiome: Major fermentation by-products and their impact on host health. Microbiome. 2019. doi:10.1186/s40168-019-0704-8
4. Zhao Y, Yu YB. Intestinal microbiota and chronic constipation. Springerplus. 2016. doi:10.1186/s40064-016-2821-1
5. Bocci V. The neglected organ: Bacterial flora has a crucial immunostimulatory role. Perspect Biol Med. 1992. doi:10.1353/pbm.1992.0004
6. Oriach CS, Robertson RC, Stanton C, Cryan JF, Dinan TG. Food for thought: The role of nutrition in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Clin Nutr Exp. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.yclnex.2016.01.003
7. Wang H, Wei CX, Min L, Zhu LY. Good or bad: gut bacteria in human health and diseases. Biotechnol Biotechnol Equip. 2018. doi:10.1080/13102818.2018.1481350
8. Brauchla M, Juan W, Story J, Kranz S. Sources of dietary fiber and the association of fiber intake with childhood obesity risk (in 2-18 Year Olds) and diabetes risk of adolescents 12-18 year olds: NHANES 2003-2006. J Nutr Metab. 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/736258
9. Vanhauwaert E, Matthys C, Verdonck L, De Preter V. Low-Residue and Low-Fiber Diets in Gastrointestinal Disease Management. Adv Nutr. 2015. doi:10.3945/an.115.009688
10. O’Keefe SJ. The association between dietary fibre deficiency and high-income lifestyle-associated diseases: Burkitt’s hypothesis revisited. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019. doi:10.1016/S2468-1253(19)30257-2