In our western culture, high carb diets are the norm, but unfortunately the majority of carbs we consume come from sugar and other simple starchy carbs. The result from this include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among other health problems. What we should be doing to combat this is prioritizing low blood sugar spiking complex carbs, and more specifically FIBER as a large chunk of our daily carbohydrate intake.
The DRI (or daily recommended intake) of fiber for the average man is 38 grams and 25 grams for women, but 9 out of 10 adults fall short of this recommendation. There are two different types of fiber you might’ve seen on nutritional labels, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, but how are they different from each other?
Soluble & Insoluble Fiber
Soluble fiber is partially digested in our body and turns into a gel, which slows digestion. Insoluble fiber on the other hand, passes through the body without getting absorbed and is good for clearing you out (and any blockage you might have). An even mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber is important for a healthy diet while also getting your DRI of fiber can have many benefits to your health as well.
For example, unlike other carb sources, soluble fiber only has 2 calories per gram, and insoluble has 0 because it isn’t digested. This means it can be effective for anyone trying to lose weight, due to its satiating effects and its ability to keep you fuller, longer. One rather embarrassing side effect of not getting enough fiber is constipation, and anybody who exercises often knows how uncomfortable it can be to work out while being constipated.
How To Get Enough Fiber
One of the simplest ways to meet your DRI of fiber without even having to change what you eat (but as I will talk about you should change what you eat as well) includes adding a substance called Psyllium Husk into your diet. Usually in powdered or husked form this substance is referred to as a supplement and a medication interchangeably. Derived from the plant Plantago psyllium, it has the ability to increase fecal moisture and weight, as well as bind to fatty acids and cholesterol (1).
Its main purpose is to increase the bulk of your movements, which can be very helpful if you are temporarily backed up. This bulk occurs due to water and gas absorption in the small intestines and colon to give chyme (made from digested food) more size and softness. This bulk is retained in the colon despite microflora as psyllium is poorly fermented (highly fermented fibers may be metabolized by bacteria in the colon, and water retaining properties with the fiber would be lost in this scenario) (1). Where psyllium stands out from other forms of supplementary fiber besides its ability to actually reduce flatulence (which can be quite useful for runners) is that it has other benefits to different aspects of our health.
In individuals with high cholesterol, forms of soluble fiber including psyllium has been shown to lower levels of LDL, or the ‘bad” cholesterol. Psyllium also has the ability to reduce blood glucose which can be quite helpful for diabetics to help them regulate blood glucose levels. Lastly, for the average healthy individual psyllium can reduce appetite which can be useful for weight loss. Most likely if you’re trying to lose weight carbs are the first thing you will start to limit in your diet, which usually includes fiber, making this supplement that much more helpful to add to your diet.
How To Take Psyllium Husk
Taking psyllium is quite simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Because it bulks up your stool with water it is recommended to take with a glass or two of liquids. Although you don’t need to take it with a meal, when taken without fluids it can cause your mouth to dry up and could possibly lead to choking. A good starting point is to take five grams with a meal and gradually increase to 15 grams spread out over three meals a day to receive maximum benefit from it. In regard to how psyllium reacts to other medications WebMD states: “This product may decrease the absorption of other medications you may be taking.
Take this product at least two hours from your other medications… It may take one to three days before this medication starts working. Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same time(s) each day.” (2).
Whether you have diabetes, high cholesterol, are trying to lose weight, or simply don’t get enough fiber in your diet, psyllium husk is a quick and convenient way to help you reach your DRI of fiber. Of course, like all supplements its worth mentioning that if you can get 20-40 grams of fiber from whole foods the benefits will be ten-fold to using a supplement.
Many foods you might want to add to your diet which are high in fiber include: Raspberries, apples, whole-wheat spaghetti, oatmeal, various cereals, lentils, almonds, artichoke, broccoli and many more. Of course it’s not always possible to get your recommended amount every day of the year which is when you should supplement with extra fiber to make sure you stay regular and stay healthy!
- Sol, and Frank Kurtis. “Psyllium.” com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2016.
- “Metamucil.” com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2016.