We all know that we need a good dose of fiber every day to boost metabolism, improve the digestive process, rid our digestive tracts of waste buildup and reduce inflammation. But with everything else you are paying attention to and keeping track of in your diet, it can be hard to focus on getting more fiber.
The recommended minimum daily requirement of fiber is 25g, but if your digestive system is out of whack, you’ll want to get even more than that.
Getting More Fiber Isn’t as Hard as You Might Think
When most people think of getting more dietary fiber, they think first of eating more grains. That’s a natural mistake, considering all of the hype from bread and cereal manufacturers. The problem with those foods is that they are loaded with carbs, sugar, artificial ingredients, sodium and calories. This can be an issue with anyone, but especially for those who need to watch carbs and/or sugar because you’re trying to lose fat and/or correct insulin sensitivity problems. With the grains approach to fiber, you might think you don’t have any carbs or calories to spend on getting more fiber into your diet.
Trying to get 25g of fiber through grains can add up to a ton of extra carbs and calories. A slice of whole wheat bread contains between 1-3g of fiber, around 60-70 calories and anywhere from 13-20 carbs. I know you’re not going to try to get all 25g of fiber from bread, but imagine if you did, you would be adding at least 600-700 calories a day and a ton of carbs.
The good news is that you can get additional fiber into your diet without taking in a single grain food and sometimes without even taking in one single additional calorie. How does that grab you?
Here are my favorite ways to get more fiber into your diet, without adding more carbs or a bunch of calories:
1. Don’t peel it, eat it.
The vast majority of the indigestible fiber in fruits and vegetables is in their peels or skins. The skin also contains an awful lot of the vitamins and antioxidants, especially with things like apples and red grapes. Whenever you can, focus on vegetables and fruits that you don’t necessarily need to peel in order to eat them. You’ll get a whopping dose of insoluble fiber, which is like dragging a whisk broom through your digestive tract. The best part is you’re not adding any calories by eating the peel because it is indigestible.
One note: As I’ve said before, you want to buy organic as often as possible, but especially if you’re eating the peel or skin of the fruit or vegetable. Pesticides and herbicides are absorbed through the skin, so washing and peeling do not remove all of the toxins.
2. Eat more berries.
Even if you’re on a very strict carb limitation, you can enjoy some low-glycemic fruits. When you do, choose berries. Not only are they low on the glycemic scale, but those tiny seeds in strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are nothing but insoluble fiber. On top of that, you’ll be getting a ton of antioxidants, including Vitamin C, B-vitamins and resveratrol, which boost muscle recovery and your immune system. Berries are also some of the lowest-calorie fruits you can eat. Again, please buy organic berries so you are not getting a hefty dose of toxins that cancel out the good you’re doing.
3. Focus on cruciferous vegetables.
Ounce for ounce, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy and brussels sprouts have more fiber than other veggies. They’re also loaded with phytonutrients that you can’t get from grains, are very low in calories and extremely low on the glycemic scale, which is important if you’re cutting carbs or having insulin issues.
You want to eat these with the fibers as intact as possible, so raw is best. If you do need to cook them, steam them, or sauté just enough to tenderize them a bit but still leave them crisp. This leaves it up to your digestive system to do most of the work breaking down the fibers. That means slower absorption of the carbs and fats in your meal as well.
Because of the high fiber content in cruciferous vegetables, plus their generally high volume, you can eat a lot of these veggies for few calories and feel full and satisfied much longer than you would eating something like spinach or salad.
4. Your invisible friend, Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is nothing but soluble fiber, meaning that it is indigestible, but also expands and turns into a gel-like substance when mixed with liquids (either the liquid they’re in or the liquid in your stomach). This gives you a real sense of fullness without adding a single calorie to your meal.
The great thing about psyllium husk powder is that it’s practically undetectable. I like to add it to my protein shakes or juices and have even sprinkled it on baked sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs and other foods without being able to taste or feel it on my tongue. You do want to drink up quickly if you add it to a shake or drink, because that gel action starts pretty quickly. Also, don’t add too much or your shake or juice will thicken up too much to be palatable. One or two teaspoons are all you want for a large shake, smoothie or whatever you may be juicing.
Psyllium husk powder will run you under $10 for a large container that will last for months. A little bit of this goes a long way and at 3g of fiber per teaspoon, it’s a fast, easy and calorie-free way to ramp up your fiber intake.
5. Add flax seeds to your food.
Flax seeds are fantastic. They are full of healthy fats and one tablespoon of raw flax seeds has 84mg of potassium, 66mg of phosphorous, 26mg of calcium and 40mg of magnesium. PLUS, that one tablespoon also contains 2.8g of fiber, almost 2g of protein and only 55 calories!
One of the easiest ways to get flax seeds into your diet is to mix them up with the other nuts and seeds you’re snacking on. But you can also add them to oatmeal, salads, stir them into soups and add them to your homemade vinaigrette. They add a nice nutty flavor to a lot of foods.
6. Switch to quinoa for those grains.
I’m a huge fan of quinoa. It’s a seed that acts like a grain and is considered one of the all-time best superfoods because it not only contains a ton of micronutrients and healthy fats but also 2.2g of complete protein per 100g. That 100g also packs 2.8g of fiber, 172mg of potassium, 152mg of phosphorous, 64mg of magnesium and 17mg of calcium, all for 120 measly calories.
One the coolest things about quinoa, is that it’s a great substitute for almost any grain you can think of. You can serve it as a side dish instead of rice (try cooking it in chicken stock instead of water), use it in place of pasta by topping it with your favorite tomato sauce, stir it into soups and stews like you would rice or pasta or even eat is as a hot cereal. We like to cook up a big batch of it at dinner time and stick the leftovers in the fridge. Then we just scoop some into a bowl with a little coconut milk and nuke it. Top that with some fresh berries and you have an incredibly delicious, nutrient-dense breakfast that will keep you full for hours.
Getting more fiber into your diet doesn’t have to mean eating more carbs, adding a lot of calories or having to give up other foods so you can add more high-fiber foods without increasing your calorie intake.
By using these tips for getting more fiber, you will add very little (if any) to your calorie intake and you will feel more satisfied.
You’ll also feel the benefits of your increased fiber intake within just a couple of days. Your digestion will work more smoothly. You’ll rid your body of waste and toxin build-up, making you feel lighter, cleaner and more energetic. You’ll have less inflammation throughout your body. Your blood sugar levels will also improve, since the high fiber content of these foods will slow the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream. That also means improved insulin levels.
You don’t have to use all of these tips at once, though you certainly can. Just choosing and adding two or three of these at a time will have a huge impact on your body. Start with the two or three that appeal to you the most or are easiest for you, then add one or two every week after that. You won’t regret it.
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