Fiber and Prebiotics

Chicory Root is a good source of Inulin

Chicory Flower

I have already tried adding fiber to my diet, because both low calorie and low carb diets can be a bit, or even a lot, low on fiber for those, like me, who need a lot of the stuff! Since I wrote those articles, I have been looking in great depth into how I can get enough fiber into my diet, so I don’t have to take any laxatives or use any suppositories. I prefer to keep my intake natural as far as I possibly can!

Prebiotics

While I mentioned prebiotics in one of my previous articles, I have now found out a lot more about these and also found a source for adding extra to my diet, which I am currently trying out. This is inulin, which I had not heard of before I started researching natural ways of correcting constipation when on a diet. Inulin is a natural substance found in fruits and vegetables. It is a soluble fiber. This means it dissolves (soluble) in water, which bulks it up and also softens the stool. And just as important, it forms a food for the good bacteria that live in your intestine. These good bacteria, grow and multiply by fermenting the soluble fiber. They also form part of your stool and the more there are of them, the softer and easier your stool will be to pass. Increasing the numbers of the good guys also decreases the baddies!

Inulin

Inulin is found in lots of foods, such as onions, leeks and asparagus but one of the biggest sources is chicory root. I know that chicory was used for making faux or ersatz coffee during the second world war, when coffee beans couldn’t be got and has been used in this way for maybe 200 years. The taste of chicory root is similar to that of coffee, though it doesn’t have the caffeine, and some people got used to the taste and continued using it for their coffee drink, for instance in New Orleans, where cafe au lait is traditionally made with chicory. Apart from this, chicory appears mostly to be eaten as a salad leaf or a vegetable, rather than the root being eaten. Rather than try finding recipes for chicory root (although you can buy it on line), I decided to purchase the inulin powder ready prepared and see if it helped and whether it agreed with me. I bought a bag of inulin and added the recommended dose of 5 grams into my daily shakes.

Gas

It has the reputation of producing more intestinal gas. I found that to be true! But it did improve as my body got used to it. And it did help with the constipation, which was a big benefit.

 

 

High Fiber Low Calorie Foods

Getting Enough Fiber

If you are on a low calorie or low carb diet, it can be hard to get enough dietary fiber in your diet while remaining within your calorie allowance or on the allowed foods. Plenty of foods have high fiber contents but not all of them are low calorie or suitable for a ketogenic diet.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

The current healthy recommendations are between 20 and 38 grams of fiber a day, depending on your gender (men need more than women), age (less as you get older) and the amount you normally eat. It also depends a lot on your own metabolism. Some people have very quick pass through in their digestive systems, others have much slower turn around times. According to WebMD, it is believed that most Americans get only about 15 grams of fiber each day and that includes those who are NOT on diets.

Just Eat More Veggies?

No, it’s not just as simple as that, though eating more veggies is part of the answer. It is difficult to get enough dietary fiber from low calorie vegetables without eating massive amounts of them. For instance, take celery, a lovely vegetable, I am very fond of it and it’s great for keeping hunger at bay and giving my mouth something to do. It has only 16 calories in 100 grams (about 3 ounces), but it also has only about 2 grams of dietary fiber in that same 100 grams (the actual amount depends on which source you consult), so to get 20 grams of fiber from celery, I would need to eat 1000 grams of celery, 2.2 pounds, every day. That probably equates to two whole heads of table celery every day. Much as I like celery, I don’t think I could manage two pounds or more of it every day and that would also use up 160 calories of my daily 800 calorie allowance on the 8 week, 800 calorie BSD diet. It’s the same for many other vegetables that are perfectly fine as part of a low calorie or low carb diet. They do not contain enough fiber to fill your daily needs without having to eat massive amounts of them and I MEAN massive amounts. It’s the same with broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Great foodstuff, fine for adding to your lunchbox to keep hunger at bay or for eating as part of your low calorie meal but by themselves, they are unlikely to add enough fiber to your diet.

High Fiber Low Calorie Soup

Some useful foodstuffs that contain high amounts of fiber include lentils, with 8 grams of fiber in 100 grams. These

High Fiber Soup

are much easier to eat (in soup for instance) and will keep you feeling full for a long time. I sometimes make my own bone broth (basically boil meat bones or chicken carcass with a bay leaf and some apple cider vinegar for a number of hours, or in a slow cooker overnight, then drain and store) and use this as the basis for a soup. Or you can use a stock cube or low sodium bouillon. I add some veggies, such as celery, half an onion and garlic to 500 millilitres (1 pint) of stock and simmer until the vegetables are almost cooked, then add 50 grams (about 2 ounces) of red lentils and continue simmering until the lentils are soft. Once finished, I divide the soup in half and save one half for the next day. Just before serving, I add about 25 grams (about 1 ounce) of oat bran or wheat bran to the soup. This thickens it and makes it very filling, so it keeps me filled for several hours. It also contains about 17 grams of fiber, almost a daily amount for some people. This makes a filling high fiber meal, which can be fitted into a low calorie diet.

Dietary Fiber Supplements

If you still cannot get enough fiber in your diet, you may need to take a high fiber, low calorie supplement such as psyllium husks or apple fiber. Both are available as powder or in capsule form. It is VITAL to take plenty of water with these, to make sure they flush your intestines, instead of clogging them up worse than ever. These may not be suitable for people who have difficulty swallowing or have a narrow food pipe – consult your doctor.

Benefits of Dietary Fiber

There are many benefits to making sure you get enough fiber in your diet. For instance, people who have lots of dietary fiber in their food intake appear to be much less likely to develop heart trouble, to get strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes or to become obese.

Increasing the amount of your fiber in your diet can reduce your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol levels and improve insulin sensitivity for both diabetics and non-diabetics. Also, supplementing your fiber intake can help with weight loss in people who are obese and also help improve gastric and intestinal problems like diverticulitis, duodenal ulcers, hemorrhoids and gastric reflux.

And when that extra fiber gets into your large intestine, it appears to improve your natural immunity.

So What’s Not To Like About Dietary Fiber?

As with anything, use your commonsense about increasing the amount of fiber you take in. If you are sensitive to gluten, don’t use wheat bran. Don’t increase your fiber intake a huge amount in one go, it can lead to uncomfortable intestinal problems, including bloating and gas, if your body isn’t used to it. Increase your intake gradually and spread it out over the day. Take plenty of fluid, especially water and anyone who has difficulty swallowing, should be very cautious about taking supplements like psyllium husk and apple fiber, for instance. If in doubt, or if concerned about your bowel movements or intestines, consult your doctor or medical adviser.

 

Adding Fiber To Your Diet

Why And How Add Fiber To Your Diet?

It’s a given on a diet isn’t it? You hear it all the time. Add more fiber! Drink more water! But Why and How?

What Is Fiber?

Fiber comes from plants, it’s part of what we consume when we eat our fruit and veggies and other plant based food items, provided the fiber hasn’t been stripped out by processing. It is also known as dietary fiber or roughage. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. It provides bulk in your intestines and helps your body in two ways. It keeps you feeling full for longer and along with water, helps move food on down through the digestive system so you are less likely to suffer from constipation.

Soluble fiber actually dissolves in water. Recent research associates it with reduced stroke risk, improved heart health and lower cholesterol levels, among other things. It can stop the stomach from emptying as quickly as normal, keeping you feeling full for longer.

Benefits Of Fiber

  • Both soluble and insoluble fiber keep you feeling full for longer;
  • soluble fiber can help with heart health, reducing stroke risk  and with lowering cholesterol levels;
  • insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation (along with water – keep hydrated);
  • Both soluble and insoluble fiber can act as what is called a prebiotic, that is, they provide a food for the good bacteria in your intestine, again helping prevent constipation, among other things;
  • Fiber is low in calories (depending on what it came from, of course) as it is not digestible, but if you eat high calorie food you will be getting calories from that, as well as the fiber.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

The amount of fiber you need varies by person, by your weight and by your gender, among other things. Some people have a very fast digestive system that food moves through very quickly. Others have a slow system. The rate at which your food passes through your system can also depend on medication and the type of food you normally eat. Current recommendations are for about 25 grams of fiber daily for women and about 38 grams of fiber daily for men but most people get a lot less than this. If you are thinking about how to get more fiber in your diet, you need to take it slowly at first because adding a whole load of fiber at once may have unwanted side effects such as gas and bloating.

How To Get More Fiber In Your Diet

Naturally

The natural way to add fiber is to eat a fiber rich diet! This means increasing your intake of vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans and lentils, etc. One easy way to do that would be to add red lentils to any soups or stews you make instead of thickening them with flour. You could also “eat your way” through the vegetable garden, using green vegetables ranging from artichokes to zucchini, by way of broccoli, brussels sprouts, celery and cabbage. For those on a normal or “healthy diet”, they could also add whole grain bread, cereal, pasta or rice. (No flour, cereal, bread, pasta or rice on a low calorie or ketogenic diet.) Many fruits also contain fiber (NOT bananas) but they may also have high calorie contents too because of the fruit sugar they contain. A medium apple for instance has about 95 calories in it. (Very little fruit is allowed on a ketogenic diet.) Don’t worry about your vitamins though, as your green veggies have plenty of those. So get those salads into you. And if you go to work each day, taking a food container with chopped up salad in it, such as celery and lettuce is a great way to add more fiber, while reducing the desire for a trip to the vending machine for a sugar bar!

You may also enjoy adding fermented vegetables, such as Kimchi and sauerkraut to your meals, to provide taste and a source of probiotics to your diet. Live culture yogurt is also a great dietary addition for probiotics.

Raspberries are one of the highest fiber fruits, surprisingly and a cup of those contains only 65 calories, a real win for weight loss on a low calorie diet. Dried fruits, such as prunes not only contain high amounts of fiber but also a chemical that helps promote good bowel movements. This is also present in apple and pear juice. Again, though, these would be high in calories.

The natural fiber from wheat and oat grains is often stripped away and sold separately as bran. This can be added to soups and stews to thicken them and even to home made bread and cakes or sprinkled over salads and other foods. They each have a nutty taste.

Supplements

There are plenty of high fiber supplements available at reasonable cost to increase your fiber intake with no added calories. It is extremely important to drink lots of water with any fiber supplement, otherwise the fiber may clog you up worse than before, by absorbing moisture from your gut. And anyone who has had difficulties swallowing or who has narrowing of the food tube should NOT take these. The types of fiber available include psyllium husks (also known as ispaghula) and apple fiber. These are all readily available as powders or even as capules. Some commercial preparations add flavoring to psyllium husks to make them more palatable. You can do this yourself by adding a little lemon juice to the glass before adding the psyllium husks and water.

Probiotics also count as supplements. These capsules contain large numbers (in the billions) of bacteria to increase the numbers of “good” bacteria in your system that help with health and digestion. Taking probiotics is also useful after having a course of antibiotics which can wipe out your friendly gut bacteria. Remember to take these capsules with cold water. They contain live bacteria and taking them with a hot drink, like tea or coffee could wipe them out before they even reach your gut!

Laxatives and Suppositories

The final option, if you really “can’t go” is to use a laxative, which brings about a bowel action or softens the stool to make it easier to pass or to use a suppository, which is inserted into the back passage to soften the stool so it can be passed. These should NOT be used where nothing is passing, not even gas or where there is abdominal pain or any suspicion of a blockage or the person potentially has appendicitis. In these cases consult your medical adviser urgently.

Diet High In Fiber

If you need a diet high in fiber, check out the nutritional information available on food packaging these days. You may find that the best foods for your preferred diet are not that high in fiber but by adding a little of these different high fiber foods to your diet throughout the day, you can put more fiber in your diet with only a little additional effort.