Our ancient ancestors didn't have the opportunity to travel 5 minutes to a grocery store and pick up bread, milk, and bananas. No, they only ate what they could find growing in nature. For this reason, their diets consisted mostly of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. When they had the chance to find an animal, they ate meat. Diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and obesity were unheard of.
We can learn a lot from the diets of our ancestors. The human body performs best when we fuel it with whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible. Early humans ate close to 100 grams of fiber per day! Modern humans eat only around 5 grams of fiber per day. It's no wonder many people struggle with digestive issues, high cholesterol, and even cancer.
Increasing your fiber intake can not only prevent disease, but it can also enhance weight loss. Yes, fiber will help you lose those extra pounds.
How fiber can help with weight loss:
First and foremost, fiber helps you feel full without consuming a lot of unwanted calories. High fiber foods tend to be low in fat, too, helping to keep your weight in check.
There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not. To some degree these differences determine how each fiber functions in the body and benefits your health.
Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes. Soluble fibers can also help lower LDL ("bad") blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber are oats, oat bran, oatmeal, apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, dried beans, barley, rye flour, potatoes, raw cabbage, and pasta.
How fiber can help with digestive issues:
We often make jokes about digestion and too much or too little fiber. The funny thing is, your fiber intake does have a direct impact on digestive health.
Insoluble fibers are considered gut-healthy fiber because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. It is the type of fiber most strongly linked to cancer protection. Good sources of insoluble fiber are wheat bran, whole wheat products, cereals made from bran or shredded wheat, crunchy vegetables, barley, grains, whole wheat pasta, and rye flour.
It is best to choose fiber-rich foods over fiber supplements in order to get the full range of cancer-fighting phytochemicals ("phyto" means plant so phytochemicals are simply plant-compounds) that fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains contain.
Tips for Increasing Fiber in Your Diet
- Whenever possible, do not remove the fiber-rich peels and skins of fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.
- Plan each of your meals to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- To avoid intestinal discomfort when increasing fiber intake, it is best to increase gradually and drink plenty of water.
- Snack on baby carrots, apples, strawberries, oranges, raspberries, and other fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Sprinkle garbanzo beans, lentils or peas on your salad.
- Add a handful of grated carrots to spaghetti sauce.
- Add ground flax or chia seeds to your protein shake, baked goods or oatmeal.
- Consider adding phsyllium husk powder to baked goods or oatmeal.