From kale to quinoa to juice cleanses, the foods and liquids we consider cool and trendy tend to be flashes in the pan. But just because your favorite fitness and nutrition bloggers aren’t posing with certain healthy foods on Instagram doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be incorporating them into your diet.
Take fiber, for instance.
“People eating a standard Western diet aren’t getting nearly enough fiber, and that’s a big problem,” says Katie Sullivan, a nutritionist and certified personal trainer. “When I set my nutrition clients’ macronutrient recommendations, I always insist that they incorporate more fiber into their diets.”
Okay, so maybe posing with a celery stalk and boasting about fiber’s gastrointestinal benefits isn’t as sexy as sexy as sipping a Kardashian-approved detox tea in a picturesque mug, but according to the experts, the nutrient isn’t getting the health hype it deserves.
Health benefits of fiber include lowering your chance of contracting diseases, improving bowel movements, regulating your blood sugar, help manage portion control, ensure you’re eating natural foods, increase your water intake and clear your complexion.
You’ll have a lower chance of contracting a number of serious diseases
Incorporating more fiber (the soluble kind, specifically) into your diet can help combat some serious health issues, according to Sullivan.
“A high-fiber diet is associated with the prevention of many health problems, such as high blood fats, gastrointestinal disorders and cancers,” she explains. And according to Abbey Sharp, a registered dietician, the nutrient is packed with plenty of heart-helping benefits as well. “Fiber can help reduce the ‘bad’ LDL blood cholesterol levels. In fact, research suggests people with a high fiber diet have a 40% lower risk of heart disease,” she says.
Your, um, ‘motility’ will improve
…which is a fancy word for your intestine’s ability to process your poop.
“There are two main types of fiber,” says Sullivan. “The first, soluble fiber, can lower our blood cholesterol. The other type, insoluble fiber, helps to bulk up stool and improve motility.”
Fiber can’t be absorbed into the GI tract, which allows it to drive waste out of your body more efficiently. Thankfully, this means a reduced chance of feeling bogged down physically by an inability to go to the bathroom when you need to.
But according to Sharp, those eating fiber should be wary of how close they consume it before exercising. “For the most part, athletes usually restrict fiber intake directly before a performance simply because it takes longer to digest,” she explains. “Some sports require immediate fast-burning fuel and fiber can cause stomach cramps, gas and poorly timed bowel movements in that scenario. You don’t want to be disrupted by the need to use the washroom half way through a marathon!”
It can help regulate your blood sugar
In addition to helping prevent several cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues, fiber plays a big part in your blood sugar, too.
“Fiber can also help to prevent diabetes because it controls blood sugar, insulin and body fat,” Sullivan explains. “This is because foods rich in fiber are less likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar levels during digestion.”
You’ll be better at managing your portion control
“Fiber can also contribute to feeling fuller faster, which is helpful when trying reduce body fat,” Sullivan explains. “People trying to lose weight frequently struggle with feeling hungry and dissatisfied with their reduced food intake, and fiber can help that tremendously.”
Studies have shown that people who consume more fiber-dense foods are more likely to maintain a healthier weight than individuals who eat less fiber.
You’ll probably drink more water
Although fiber consumption isn’t necessarily correlated with being hydrated, according to Sullivan, you’ll need to be pounding the fluids if your fiber increases.
“When you’re eating enough fiber, you’ll need to consume enough water to ensure your digestive system stays happy,” she explains. And when you consume more water, athletic performance increases and your mood brightens, to only name a few of the many benefits associated with increased fluid intake.
You’ll probably up your natural food game
Sullivan recommends that women consume at least 30 to 35 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for at least 40 to 45. And while meeting those numbers might not sound so daunting, when push comes to shove, you’ll probably end up eating many, many more healthy grains, fruits and veggies.
“By increasing the fiber my clients need to consume each day, they naturally end up choosing more whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” she says. “I let them use fiber supplements if absolutely necessary, but they don’t provide the micronutrients, phytochemicals and water found in whole plant foods.”
Your complexion could become clearer
“Fiber may help with inflammatory skin conditions like rashes and acne because it helps slow an inflammatory insulin spike,” says Sharp. “Constipation has also been linked to skin conditions, so fiber can help get things moving smoothly.”
Of course, when it comes to eating more fiber, the million dollar question is: Exactly what kinds of foods should you be eating?
Sullivan offers up a few of her favorites: “Apples (with skin), pears (with skin), prunes, raspberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, legumes (which have the highest amount of fiber for any food – think black beans, lentils and pinto beans), whole grains like barley, rolled oats and bran flake cereal.”