Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, but can you get enough on a Paleo diet? We explore health benefits and fiber-rich foods that are also Paleo-friendly.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate, and an indigestible part of plant-based foods. Unlike other carbs, fiber is not broken down into sugar molecules, but instead, passes through the intestinal tract whole, feeding the gut bacteria and adding bulk to your stool. (1) Without fiber, constipation can occur, as well as other digestive or health problems.
4 Health Benefits of Fiber
Fiber plays an essential role in not only digestive health, but also immune and skin health, blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, cholesterol support, and weight management. People who eat plenty of dietary fiber appear to be at significantly lower risks for developing coronary heart disease (the number one killer of Americans), stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain GI diseases. (2)
1. Stroke Prevention & Heart Health
Research has found that for every seven extra grams of fiber that you consume on a regular and daily basis, your stroke risk decreases by seven percent. People who eat a high-fiber diet also have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease. (3)
2. Blood Sugar Balance
Soluble fiber helps to balance the body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and slow the absorption of sugar, helping to stabilize blood glucose levels and prevent nasty swings in blood sugar.
3. Weight Management
Fiber supports weight loss due to its ability to increase feelings of satiety, especially between meals, as well as to support a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Fiber also works by helping to soak up water in the digestive tract, which can make bowel movements more frequent and regular. Gut bacteria also help to break down fiber into short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which can help control appetite and metabolism.
4. Beautiful Skin
Fiber helps keep skin looking beautiful. Psyllium husk in particular may help to remove yeast and fungus from the body, which can prevent it from being excreted through the skin – the largest organ – where this could potentially cause acne, redness, or rashes.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The average fiber intake for U.S. children and adults is less than half of the recommended levels. (4) The FDA advises that Americans get roughly 20-30 grams of fiber per day, however, estimates are that less than five percent of Americans get the recommended daily amount.
The 2 Types of Fiber
Fiber is broken down into two main categories: soluble (able to dissolve in water) and insoluble (unable to dissolve in water; often found on the tough skins of foods).
Each form of fiber plays an important role and has unique properties and functions within the body.
Most whole foods—especially fruits and vegetables – naturally contain both types of fiber.
Soluble fiber is able to dissolve into a gel-like texture, which can help to slow digestion and increase feelings of fullness after eating. Soluble fiber travels through the digestive system and is fermented by the bacteria in the colon, which can sometimes cause bloating and gas when you’re not used to a regular intake.
Soluble fiber is most popular for its ability to regulate blood sugar. It also aids in the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, such vitamins B and K. (5)
Foods rich in soluble fiber include:
- Root vegetables
Insoluble fiber helps to keep the digestive process moving along since it does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to stool. Fermentable insoluble fiber is broken down by the bacteria in the colon.
Foods rich in insoluble fiber include:
- Brazil nuts
- Brussels sprouts
3 Ways to Get Enough Fiber on a Paleo Diet
Fiber is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds – all Paleo-friendly foods.
1. Eat Whole Foods
The first step in adding more fiber to your diet is to quit processed and refined products, and to replace them with more fiber-rich whole foods. Load up on all of the Paleo-friendly veggies you can get your hands on, including kale, spinach, romaine, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, and more. If it’s green, it’s likely a good choice.
2. Don’t Juice
With all of the different cleanse fads out there, it can be hard to resist wanting to jump on the green-juice bandwagon. The problem with just drinking your fruits and vegetables is that you miss out on the most important part: the fiber, which is found in the skin and pulp.
The juicing process leaves pure fruit juice alone, which is little better than a soda-like imposter that is packed full of sugar with no fiber to slow it down.
Eat the whole apple, real pineapple slices, and berries. If you do want to drink your fiber, just blend up the whole fruit. Blending, as opposed to juicing, will allow you to reap all of the benefits of the entire fruit, without having to actually chew your food. And who doesn’t love a good smoothie?
3. Choose Fiber-Rich Add Ons
If you are having a hard time getting the recommended amount of fiber with just fruits and vegetables, you aren’t alone. You can remedy this by adding fiber fillers to your diet. Try mixing in psyllium husk powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, or flax oil to your smoothies or you can try some Paleo homemade, fiber-rich snacks like chia pudding or broccoli toast with avocado.
Two tablespoons of flaxseed provide 3.8 grams of fiber, as well as some additional omega-3 fatty acids, while one tablespoon of chia seeds will give you roughly 5.5 grams of fiber. Chia seeds are also a wonderful egg replacement and make a lovely gel-like substance that can be used to thicken smoothies and sauces.
Top 4 Paleo Fiber Foods
Try these fiber-rich ingredients the next time you prep a meal or a snack.
Berries are great on the go, in salads, in smoothies, or simply as a healthy swap to help crush sweet tooth cravings. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are naturally lower in sugar than most fruits, so eating more berries is one of the easiest ways to get more fiber into your diet. A typical cup of berries provides 8 grams of fiber, as well as an added bonus of vitamins A, C, K, and B!
2. Brussels Sprouts
Bake them, roast them, drizzle them with olive oil, pair them with bacon. Regardless of how you choose to eat these mini cabbages, you’ll be upping your daily dose of greens and fiber with every bite! Each cup of Brussels sprouts provides 7.6 grams of fiber, as well antioxidants, folate, and vitamins C, K, B6, B2, and B1.
Avocado toast, avocado pudding, avocado everything! This fabulous fatty fruit provides a whopping 10.5 grams of fiber per cup! Add it to a salad, blend it into a smoothie, or just eat it with a sprinkle of sea salt. In addition to all of the fiber, avocados are rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins C, E, B6, K, and potassium.
The coconut craze isn’t going away anytime soon, and for good reason! This low-glycemic fruit can be eaten in the raw, used as a Paleo flour, or added to homemade trail mixes. Each cup of coconut provides 7.2 grams of fiber per cup, as well as omega-6 fatty acids, folate, selenium, and manganese.
10 High-Fiber Paleo Snacks
Need help finding the perfect fiber-rich snack? Here are 10 of the best options. Bonus: kids and adults will keep coming back for more of these delicious recipes.