While being on a low carb diet, and more specifically the keto diet, finding foods to eat that are low in carbs and high in fiber can get exhausting. However, the good news is that a lot of vegetables and low-sugar fruits have plenty of fiber and other vital nutrients. While thinking about trying the ketogenic diet, which we discuss in the Body Reboot book, don’t let the fear of not getting enough fiber in a diet deter you. There are plenty of food sources you can eat that provide a lot of fiber, and we discuss 7 health benefits of fiber below.
First, VeryWell Fit provides an excellent summary of how to distract fiber from your carb intake. Yes, you don’t count fiber as a part of your daily carbohydrates! That’s good news considering the goal of the keto diet is to eat foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
Does Fiber Count as a Carbohydrate?
Although most fiber sources are carbohydrates, fiber doesn’t raise blood glucose, so low-carb diets don’t “count” fiber. Fiber can provide calories, not as glucose, but as products of fermentation in the colon.
In fact, fiber helps to moderate the effect of “usable carbs” in your bloodstream, so it furthers the goals of low-carb diets. To the extent that it creates satiety, it may also help prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss.
Fiber is good for your digestive system and the prevention of hypertension as well. It can also maintain healthy levels of LDL cholesterol and blood glucose.
1. Helps you maintain a healthy weight
Fiber is essential to have while on the keto diet, and Mayo Clinic says that it can also aid in weight loss. That’s excellent news since the keto diet can also help you lose weight. Get enough fiber, and it’ll be much easier to not only achieve your weight loss goals but maintain your weight moving forward.
High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you're likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. And high-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Eating Well says that fiber can help you maintain your weight or keep the pounds off. That's good news if you've recently lost weight and don't want to gain it back! (Remember, the keto diet can help with weight loss and implement fiber, and you'll have a healthy, powerful diet.)
Yep, it can also help you avoid putting pounds back on. People who got more fiber tended to be leaner overall—while those who were obese got an average of almost 1 gram a day less fiber than normal-weight participants, according to a study at the Medical University of South Carolina. And recent research at Georgia State University found that mice put on diets lacking in fiber—specifically soluble fiber—gained weight and had more body fat compared to those who weren't deficient. What's more, mice given adequate soluble fiber resisted fat gain—even when put on a high-fat diet.
2. Relieves constipation
Who’s kidding, sometimes you may experience illness, and if you start the keto diet, it’s perfectly natural if this happens. However, Perfect Keto reminds us that you can avoid constipation by eating plenty of fiber.
Technically, the National Institute of Health (NIH) defines constipation as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, or dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass. But if you aren’t having a bowel movement once or twice per day, you are at the very least mildly constipated.
If you’re constipated, fiber can be your friend.. Soluble fiber can enhance your microbiome health, while insoluble fiber bulks up your stools and moves them along. However, not everyone benefits–some people experience worsening of symptoms, or other side-effects from increasing their fiber intake.
Along with increasing fiber in your diet, be sure to drink enough water and get regular physical activity. If upping your fiber intake, hydrating, and exercising don’t help, talk to your doctor.
Aliment Pharmacol Ther. did a study in 2016 and aids to this discussion by revealing in their research that for patients who struggle with constipation, increasing their intake of fiber is critical.
Chronic idiopathic constipation is a common symptom-based gastrointestinal disorder responsible for a substantial economic health service burden. Current guidelines recommend the use of fibre as a first-line treatment.
To investigate the effect of fibre (including prebiotic) supplementation on global symptom response, stool output, gut microbiota composition and adverse events in adults with chronic idiopathic constipation.
This meta-analysis demonstrates that fibre is moderately effective, but also causes moderate gastrointestinal side effects. However, these findings need to be treated with caution due to a high risk of bias. Accordingly, further large, methodologically rigorous trials are required, before any definitive recommendation regarding its risk-benefit profile can be made.
3. Reduces cholesterol
Another positive benefit of the keto diet is that it lowers cholesterol. Another study by Cochrane Database Syst Rev., which they completed in 2016 found that fiber is a powerful food source to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease. Read more about the study’s findings below:
The prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a key public health priority. A number of dietary factors have been associated with modifying CVD risk factors. One such factor is dietary fibre which may have a beneficial association with CVD risk factors. There is a need to review the current evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in this area.
The primary objective of this systematic review was to determine the effectiveness of dietary fibre for the primary prevention of CVD.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library, Ovid MEDLINE (1946 to January 2015), Ovid EMBASE (1947 to January 2015) and Science Citation Index Expanded (1970 to January 2015) as well as two clinical trial registers in January 2015. We also checked reference lists of relevant articles. No language restrictions were applied.
Studies were short term and therefore did not report on our primary outcomes, CVD clinical events. The pooled analyses for CVD risk factors suggest reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol with increased fibre intake, and reductions in diastolic blood pressure. There were no obvious effects of subgroup analyses by type of intervention or fibre type but the number of studies included in each of these analyses were small. Risk of bias was unclear in the majority of studies and high for some quality domains so results need to be interpreted cautiously. There is a need for longer term, well-conducted RCTs to determine the effects of fibre type (soluble versus insoluble) and administration (supplements versus foods) on CVD events and risk factors for the primary prevention of CVD.
Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
4. Balances your gut flora
You have around 100 trillion bacteria living in your intestines, give or take a few trillion. Dietary fiber feeds the beneficial, probiotic gut bacteria that comprise your microbiome.
However, if your microbiome is out of balance, eating prebiotics can also feed gut bacteria that may be harmful to your health[*]. That’s why not everyone benefits from upping their fiber intake.
Keeping your gut flora in balance decreases inflammation in your body, helps you maintain a healthy body weight, reduces your risk of many diseases, and even supports cognition and brain health.
5. Helps you live longer
Mayo Clinic reveals that fiber can also help you live longer, and as discussed above, it also can fight disease and cancer.
Studies suggest that increasing your dietary fiber intake — especially cereal fiber — is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.
Fiber Facts also details why fiber can improve your health and thus help you live a longer, healthier life.
Specific fermentable fibers have been shown to provide support for healthy immune function. Two mechanisms contribute to this benefit: increased levels of beneficial bacteria (i.e., Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus) and reduced adhesion of pathogens to the colonic cell walls, which aids in flushing them from the digestive tract. Prebiotic oligosaccharides have also been utilized in infant formula to imitate the beneficial effects of breast milk for newborn infants and young children. It has been shown that human milk oligosaccharides have a significant impact on the initial bacterial colonization within the newborn baby’s intestinal tract. The microbiota facilitates proper digestion and may provide stimulation and balance for the immune system. Recent research has shown that infant formula fortified with prebiotic oligosaccharides can improve immune function. Thus, establishing a healthy balance of microbiota early in life may contribute to long-term health outcomes, because early colonizing microbiota have stronger adhesion and persistence within the intestinal tract than prebiotic bacteria consumed later in life.
6. Aids in mineral absorption
It’s vital for a body to absorb minerals, and Fiber Facts says that fiber can help with that. They explain how this process works below:
Fermentable fiber sources may improve the absorption of minerals, especially calcium. Clinical studies have demonstrated improved calcium absorption and improvements in bone mineral density in adolescents who had consumed short-chain, long-chain inulin-type fructans, and some fermentable dietary fibers, such as soluble corn fiber. There are several potential mechanisms to explain the favorable effect of prebiotic oligosaccharides fibers on mineral absorption: fermentation lowers the intestinal pH, which increases the solubility of the minerals, enhancing passive absorption within the large intestine, and fermentable fibers may enhance the absorptive capacity of the cells within the intestinal tract for minerals, either by increasing the absorptive area or by increasing the active transporter pathways. Traditionally, the large intestine was not generally associated with calcium absorption but there is increasing evidence that the human colon can absorb nutritionally significant amounts of calcium.
7. Can help prevent heart disease
If you want to avoid heart disease, Eating Well says implementing more fiber in your diet is an excellent place to start.
For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9 percent found a review of 22 studies published in the BMJ. That's partly due to fiber's ability to sop up excess cholesterol in your system and ferry it out before it can clog your arteries.
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