During one of Sprout’s and my extended siestas, I got this tweet:
@bgg2wl hi, do you have any advice in regards to adding more fiber? I’m not sure if I’m getting enough
— Young Gypsy Gawd (@callmeMIMIbaby) October 6, 2015
Now, I’ve written about fiber before, but this was back when I was a beginner… a newwwwwbie in this fitness game. I was talking about laxative teas (less like the kind sold on Instagram now and more like the $0.99 kind sold in your local grocery…they’re basically the same thing, anyway) and seed-heavy cookies back then. And, while those might be reliable methods of undoing the perils of constipation (to put it politely), I know better than this now.
The trouble with laxative-like teas and other edibles is the fact that they don’t just get rid of any backed-up stuff – they also drastically reduce the amount of time food (and, by extension, nutrients) spends in your digestive tract.
When you eat food, your teeth begin the digestion process by chewing the food into smaller pieces that allow it to travel through your esophagus and into your stomach, where your stomach mixes it with acids that allow it to pass through the small intestine with minimal effort. From there, it travels through your small intestines where the process of absorption truly begins. Your protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals… it’s all broken down into smaller pieces and absorbed through the lining of your intestines into your blood stream, where your heart pumps the important stuff – nutrients, amino acids, oxygen, and so on – throughout your body. The parts that are non-nutritious and, therefore, non-digestible waste are promptly sent out through the large intestine where it makes it way to… ahem… the toilet.
It’s an important process – it’s how we guarantee that our bodies are nourished, and it’s how we transport the necessary nutrients to our muscles to ensure that we recover properly post-workout.
Laxatives interrupt that process as early as the point where food is broken down in the stomach, ultimately preventing your body from having the time it needs to absorb nutrients.
Laxatives contain ingredients that break down the food it comes in contact with, liquefying it in some cases and bulking it up together in others, sending it out of the large intestine far quicker than it’d otherwise go. A diet low in fiber, a processed food diet, or a diet where the person consumes little in liquids often results in someone having a large amount of bodily waste backed up inside them. Because laxative teas, flushes, and rinses interrupt the digestion process with the goal of packing everything up and sending it out, you’d be ridding your body of more than waste – you’d be sending nutrients out the door, too. You’d be sending water out the door. That much-needed protein for muscle maintenance and building? Out. The. Door. Nutrients for your blood, skin, hair, organs, nails, immune system, and more? You get the picture.
With regard to this process, there is no difference between over-the-counter (or prescription) laxatives and “natural” laxatives like teas or the infamous[ly poorly photographed] cookie I once made. They all cause the same sequence of actions to happen, and they all have the same consequences.
Why does this matter with weight loss, though? Well… it does, but it doesn’t. Foods that are higher in dietary fiber are far more likely to fill you up and keep you full for longer, reducing the need to overeat at the next meal. Foods that are lower in fiber – less than 8g per meal, to me, is pretty low – are also likely to be of the hyper-processed sort, which will likely contain far more carbs than you actually need with little to no protein or healthy fats. Fiber doesn’t directly affect body fat – it does indirectly because it helps you stay fuller for longer on fewer calories – but it’s worth noting that a diet higher in fiber will result in a lower number on the scale. Um…how do I say this? When you step on the scale, everything that is either on you or inside you is reflected in the number you see. So, if you haven’t gone number two in a few days, you’ll see that reflected on the scale; and if you walk out of the bathroom needing to spray the Lysol, the Febreeze, and holy water…that’d likely be reflected there, as well.
So, if you need to incorporate more fiber in your diet… how do you make that happen? Mama’s got you… as always:
1) Dark and leafy greens. Collard greens are a nutritional powerhouse, do you hear me? Nutritional. Powerhouse. Containing damn near every vitamin, an abundance of iron, a plethora of protein, a cornucopia of calcium, and all the fiber that your little belly can stand… collard greens are everything you need and more (yes, I sang that line just like Freddie in my head.) Even the braised ones we’re used to by way of soul food are fiber-full, and will nourish you (yes, even though they’re boiled) like nature intended.
Collard greens aren’t the only ones, either – kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts? If it’s dark and leafy, it’s fiber full. And it’s worth making a regular part of your diet.
2) Nuts and seeds. The almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts you love, and the flax and chia seeds you adore? All of ’em have lots of fiber that, when used to top other things like, say, your kale salad or your greek yogurt, can help not only fill you up but keep you regular, as well. A tablespoon of flax seed has 11 grams of fiber in it – I, uh, don’t recommend you try to eat 11 grams of fiber in one sitting – and adding a teaspoon to your greek yogurt with cinnamon and honey sounds like a pretty solid breakfast to me.
3) Whole grains. Foods like quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, wheatberries, serve as great bases for dishes – lots of protein, complex carbs, and – yep, you guessed it – fiber! Fills you up, adds their own unique flavor to your dishes, and full of protein. Who could turn that down?
4) Citrus fruit. Grapefruit, alone, has anywhere from 4 to 8g of fiber in a whole one. Oranges, almost 3 grams by themselves. Super-easy to eat, and the perfect way to quench most pregnancy cravings. Trust me on that one.
5) Beans and legumes. Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, black eyed peas, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, cranberry beans, I mean…..need I go on?
There are endless ways to get your fiber in and get the job done. Add a few of these to your daily intake every day, and you should be golden.
It’s worth remembering that it’s recommended that we aim for 25g of fiber each day; about 8 grams of fiber with each meal, about 4 grams of fiber for each side, and an orange for a snack should send you right over the goal line.
Also, while all fruits and vegetables have some form of fiber in them, resist the urge to get your fiber from juicing or blending your veggies together. Juicing completely removes the fiber from your produce; and blending not only has the ability to heat the veggies and cook them because of the heat in the blender, thereby softening the fiber, but it also blends and shreds the produce beyond what your teeth otherwise might, rendering the fiber far less effective. Instead of blending your veggies, turn that batch into a delicious salad or sauteéd side dish, instead.
What are you doing to get your fiber in?