Fiber: How Overrated Is It?

If you’ve ever had the need to (ahem) get things moving, then chances are you’re a bit of a fiber fan. And if it’s a regular sort of need (no pun intended) then perhaps you even have shares in Metamucil or whichever fiber bar/powder is choice of the moment where you live. But do you ever stop and wonder how ideal it is to ‘need’ some sort of dietary kick-start each day? Or consider whether there could be a simpler and more complete solution to your stubborn digestive concerns?

Well, for once I’m going to agree with the mainstream. You’ve probably heard or read how crucial fiber is to a healthy diet, and the truth is that this concept has not been at all over-exaggerated. From a weight loss point of view, nutritionist Dr Jonny Bowden states that fiber may just be the most effective supplement out there. And – in one of those unlikely turns of fortune – it’s probably the cheapest weight loss supplement you can find, which is a nice bonus.

But Wait! There’s More!

From a health perspective adequate fiber intake is linked not just to weight loss, but to

  • (duh) improved digestion and regularity
  • Satiety and the reduction of food cravings
  • Proper detoxification and therefore the potential prevention of all manner of illness and disease

So regardless of whether you feel you need some added fiber in your diet, I’d recommend it as a great health back-up for all of us.

But Here’s The Catch

Those fiber bars? The kinda yummy ones choc full of sugary ‘goodness’ like figs and prunes and dates (and even added sugar in many cases)? Not what I’m talking about. I’m not saying they don’t work. The definitely work. But the downside is that your insulin levels are skyrocketing and your hormonal system is going into fat-storage-overdrive. So I’m thinking that as a day-to-day solution they’re probably not ideal.

And whilst wholegrain foods do contain some dietary fiber, and some fiber-added cereals are actually quite good, offering as much as 10 grams per serve, I’d rather see you get your fiber from more nutrient-filled foods. Fresh green vegetables are the choice du jour in my book. My personal feeling is that we should all be eating fresh veggies at least twice, and up to four times per day. Wholegrain or not (and most wholegrain foods are actually only 51% wholegrain, as that’s all that’s required for the label), cereal-based foods are not for everyday consumption except for those rare few amongst us who tolerate carbohydrate well.

So let’s assume you’re eating your green veg a couple times each day, and perhaps even throwing in the odd piece of wholegrain, maybe even going so far as to down some all-bran when you can face the stuff. The sorry truth is that even if you were including all those things on a daily basis you’re probably only hitting 15-20 grams of fiber per day max. And that’s if you’re super-conscious of your health. According to one study I read last week the average American consumes less than 10 grams per day, and possibly as little as 5.

How much fiber should you be having? Well, if weight loss and detoxification is your goal (and given the vast amount of environmental toxicity we’re all exposed to then whose isn’t the latter at least) my recommendation is to aim for a minimum of 20 grams and up to 50 grams dietary fiber per day. Which means that unless you’re planning on chowing through 6-8 cups of veg each day then a quality (meaning sugar and synthetic-crap free) supplement could be worth investing in.

One thing you do need to know is that it’s important to rotate your fiber supplement. The reason for this is that using the same blend day in and day out can irritate the lining of the gut wall and leave you at greater risk of food intolerance. This happens due to the close contact fiber has with your intestinal lining, and it makes sense given that in nature we wouldn’t be exposed to the same fiber sources every day. I’d suggest rotating at least 3-4 different types of fiber on a 4-7 day basis. Personally I use and recommend the following 4 blends –

  1. Charles Poliquin’ Primal Fiber 1
  2. Charles Poliquin Primal Fiber 3
  3. Bioceuticals SatisFiber (available from any good health food store in Australia)
  4. Lifestream Pre/Probiotic Bowel Maintenance (available from any good health food store)

If you can’t access these last two then you can even use plain psyllium husks and ground flaxseeds (you’d need a coffee grinder to grind them, although some health food stores may be able to do it for you).

What Should You Expect To Notice From Increased Fiber?

First things first – the obvious. Increased fiber will almost certainly lead to increased elimination. In fact, many people are quite taken aback at just how much back-up they must have had. Sometimes it can take a couple weeks for things to slow down in that department. The good news is that although you may be spending more time than you’d like making hasty dashes to the john you’ll definitely notice the payoff in a flatter and less bloated belly. And if that’s not enough for you then the further benefits of long-term weight loss, daily detoxification (and therefore increased energy), greater satiety and reduced cravings and with a price that’s accessible to anyone I’d say that this is one piece of mainstream health advice you’d be crazy not to follow. Wouldn’t you?

Fiber overrated? Not one little bit.

17 responses to “Fiber: How Overrated Is It?”

  1. Kiki Dogwood says:

    Fine. Sigh. I’ll do it. But I will not like it.

  2. Kat says:

    You probably will once it starts working for you 🙂

    Sorry but there just aren’t any nice tasting fibers that are okay in my book. Not if nice = sugar. Vegetables are an exception of course!

  3. Joanna says:

    Hi i just discovered and am loving chia seeds they are 37.7 g fibre per 100g so not has high as phsylium husk but higher than flax seeds. I love them and they seem to work. They also seem to have lots of other great health benefits and are high in protein etc.

  4. Kat says:

    That’s a great point Joanna. Chia seeds are really a good source of plant protein; I sometimes add them to a shake. Thanks!

  5. I’ve been eating fiber for years and attribute a cholestorol level of about 130 to the use of this supplement. I was a little nuts about it for a while, eating up to 100 grams a day. Felt a little bloated and was perhaps TOO regular. I now stick to about 60 grams daily – no problems

    • Kat says:

      100g is a lot of broccoli!! (or whatever you were eating). I know what you mean by too regular – I used to have that problem when I got a little crazy about putting sea salt in every glass of water. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, isn’t there?

  6. savetherainforests says:

    Actually, fibre doesn’t clean any “back log” of waste in the body. Fibre increases elimination because fibre itself is indigestible and absorbs up to ten times its weigh in water. You’re really just poohing out the extra bulk you’re eating (plus the water). It’s strictly a case of garbage in, garbage out. No scientific study has ever conclusively proved the benefits of fibre – it’s all speculation. I’m not sure why anyone would aspire to do giant, unnecessary, loose, wet stools? By all means, eat your fruit and veges. But eating any product for its dietary fibre content is a complete waste of time.

    • Kat says:

      Disagree 🙂 this might be true if your body/food/nutrition intake were 100% toxin free and always had been. But that’s not the case.

  7. Penny says:

    Hi Kat,

    I started eating ground flax seeds for extra fibre, (which I luuurve … you can bake them into anything). Only prob is I ended up with massive, painful, uncomfortably-stretched-skin style bloating for a few days after each tablespoonful.

    Have you heard of this before? Has anyone else?

    I’m now really worried about taking fibre supplements but I’m not sure I’m getting enough fibre from my veggies.

    Any thoughts?


    • Kat says:

      Hi Penny,

      Are they organic? It could be a quality issue. Could also be you need to back off and then build up slowly. Remember with fiber you do need to rotate the source every 4-8 days (ish!)