A meta-analysis of 40 years of research was recently published in The Lancet to develop guidelines for the amount of fiber we need to ingest daily to prevent chronic diseases and premature death. Those eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) on average get only get half of the daily fiber they need which can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes as well as vulnerability to communicable diseases (e.g. viruses).
Fiber-rich foods include minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and pulses such as peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Our digestive system is designed to extract the rich source of nutrition from whole plants. The fiber in complex carbohydrates helps to create a steady release of glucose and lipids into the bloodstream which the body needs. A plant-based diet of a variety of fruits and vegetables provides amino acids needed for protein (there is more protein in broccoli than meat!) increases satiety, improves gut health, boosts the immune system, mood, and stimulates regular bowel movements. It is important to avoid constipation and fermentation of food which leads to leaky gut syndrome. Even with a high fiber diet, one needs to drink adequate water and move/exercise, which can be a brisk 30 minute walk to assist bowel regularity.
Unfortunately, popular fad diets for temporary weight loss recommend eating more meat/animal products which are void of fiber. Did you know that the true paleo diet consists of plants, roots, fruit, and bark, and very little meat? Meat may seem to curb hunger because the body takes a long time to digest the fiberless substance, but the lack of nutrients signal the body it is in famine, to utilize fat stores. That is why when people end the unsustainable fad diet they gain the weight back and sometimes more because the body wants to protect you from another “famine.” Complex carbohydrates are needed by the cells for fuel, and restricting them can lead to a lower metabolism, muscle weakness, brain fog, dizziness, and tiredness. Replacing carbs with animal-derived proteins and fats from meat, poultry, and dairy/cheese increased mortality risk, but replacing them with plant-derived fats and proteins had the opposite effect. These include foods like seeds (chia, hemp) and nuts, avocados, whole grains (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat…), and legumes.
Overall, the research found that people who consume the most fiber in their diet are 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause or from a cardiovascular condition. Consuming foods rich in fiber correlated with a 16–24 percent lower incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
Do you have to keep count? If one primarily eats a whole food, plant-based diet, avoiding dairy and keeping meat to a minimum (used like a condiment), and use eggs on occasion, that will naturally result in a higher fiber intake. Current dietary guidelines recommend eating at least 9-13 cups of fruits and vegetables of all colors/variety every day (to help with getting a strategic blend of dehydrated plant powders, click here). A diet of organic apples, pears, berries, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables will help lower cholesterol and cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. The increased intake of green or yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables were inversely associated with lowering total cancer risk. Avoid highly processed packaged food, sugary drinks and fast food. Read nutrition labels and don’t be fooled by marketing phrases on breakfast cereals and bars such as, “made with whole grains” or “oats are heart healthy”. Pick a new meatless recipe to try each week and develop a rotation of ones that you like. When going to restaurants and you want a meat dish, also order a vegetarian dish and split the meat and veggies so it is a more healthy meal with the meat portion being no more than the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards, and half your plate being vegetables with a fresh salad. Consider a plant based protein whole food smoothie mix for an easy breakfast.
Be still and know that I am God! Psalm 46:11
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