If you ever felt alone when you had a meal by yourself, here’s some news: you were never alone. While this is hardly the place to bring up anything supernatural (which we will not), it is worth noting that our bodies are anything but a bunch of highly organized human cells performing their functions. They are, here’s the humbling truth: for every human cell there are 10 bacteria cells.
Among the many (and we mean many!) functions our resident bacteria are responsible for, keeping the gut healthy and with that our whole bodies and minds too, is one of the most important. They do the hard work but their work is half efficient unless we help along.
Which takes us straight to the point: food and the importance of good food (no, we do not mean just taste but that is important too) in keeping the human-bacteria alliance functioning at optimal levels. With the billions of bacteria inhabiting our body (it sounds worse than it actually is), it is no wonder that we are not alone, nor are we eating just for the pleasure of it.
Fiber is essential to humans and bacteria alike. According to Dieticians of Canada, most Canadians get half or less of the amount they need. That would be the bad news; the good news is that there is no ‘danger zone’ when it comes to fiber. If you eat whole grains and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, beans and lentil, on a regular basis…well, you will never be in danger of getting too much.
We need fiber because:
- It helps lower cholesterol levels (soluble fiber found in oats, beans, peas, carrots, barley)
- It helps reduce blood pressure and promotes cardiovascular health
- It helps balance blood sugar levels (also soluble fiber) and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Promotes healthy intestinal transit (insoluble fiber found in whole grains, nuts, vegetables)
- Maintains intestinal health (lower risk of colorectal cancer)
Our gut microbiome (the scientific name for the collection of bacteria found in our gut) thrives when we include enough fiber in our diet. Not only that, but research has shown that when we eat enough fiber, our gut bacteria help us keep weight gain at bay.
And the story is far from over. Gut bacteria feed on fiber and in doing so, they obtain short-chain fatty acids which we get to benefit from. That can help decrease inflammation in the body, increase the heath of our immune system health and protect against obesity. When our diets lack fiber constantly, some bacteria die off and others turn to eat…well, they turn and start eating the mucus in our colon, which causes inflammation and a whole range of intestinal trouble. Need we say more?
Bottom line: Keep track of your daily intake of fiber and you will notice an improved level of health.
How to include more fiber in your diet:
- Clean the refined grain products from your pantry and kitchen and opt for whole grain products instead
- Use natural sweeteners such as dates and bananas in baking, forgoing refined sugar altogether
- Have a side of vegetables with your dinner and a small salad
- For lunch, choose a whole-grain wrap with vegetables and sprouts along with your protein of choice and a vegetable-rich soup
- Include more fiber in your breakfast: slow oats instead of quick oats, chia, berries, dates, citrus or apples; if you lean towards savoury, choose whole grain bread or a spinach/kale/mushroom omelet and some fruit on the side.
The possibilities are endless as long as you remember this one secret: keep your food options as close to wholesome as possible for optimal amount of nutrients and fiber.Tags: blood sugar, cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, digestion, fiber, health, nutrition