In Part 1 we discussed what fiber is, does, and how much we need. To recap, nearly all governing agencies and nutritional advisory boards recommend that we need somewhere in the range of 20-40 grams of fiber per day. Less for women, children and the elderly (defined as 'over 50,' ha!).
I proposed that we shoot for a similar amount, 25-50 grams per day, but we should only be counting what has traditionally been called "soluble" fiber, or the type that we now consider prebiotic fiber. We also discussed that it is probably not necessary to eat an exact amount every day, and even taking a day or two away from fibers is maybe a good plan, in line with ancestral eating patterns.
In Part 2, let's discuss food choices designed around getting as much fermentable/soluble/prebiotic fiber as we can. I've invited three very knowledgeable folks, GabKad, Gemma and Wilbur, to help me write this post.
This post is not going to be filled with all those crazy 30 letter words like "Galactoglucomannan" and I really don't even want to discuss fiber types like gums, mucilages, pectin or resistant starch. When discussing real food, I think it's much better to just think in terms of the food itself. Also, you'll see that not many fiber charts have been developed to show the soluble/insoluble/prebiotic content of foods, so it's probably best to just count 'total fiber' when looking at real food. Resistant starch confuses things further.
I think it's safe to say, for those that want to count fiber intake, that 'Total Fiber' as seen on nutrition labels of whole foods is about 2/3 insoluble fiber and 1/3 soluble. In starchy foods, I think it's safe to say that about 5-10% of all carbohydrates are resistant starch.
There are some typical fiber charts found at the bottom of this post for reference.
Fiber in Typical SAD diet:
- Breakfast - Pastry, Pop-tarts, coffee
- Snack - Candy bar
- Lunch - Cheeseburger, French fries, diet coke
- Snack - Candy bar
- Dinner - Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, 2 pieces of bread, margarine, maybe a veggie like green beans or corn (but probably left on the plate).
- Snack - Beef jerky, pizza, 6 cans of beer
- Drinks - Diet soda, Gatorade
I don't see ANY fiber in that! Maybe a bit. Certainly not 15 grams, and probably 3-5g of prebiotic fiber, nearly all from the bread. 3000-4000 calories.
Fiber in Typical Paleo diet:
- Breakfast - Bacon and eggs
- Snack - Almonds
- Lunch - Green leafy salad and raw veggies, chicken breast, olive oil, vinegar
- Snack - Paleo-approved protein bar
- Dinner - Cooked and raw veggies, fatty meat, fruit
- Snack - Dark chocolate, almond butter
- Drinks - coffee in the morning, water all day
1500-2000 calories with lots of healthy choices. But still, not a whole lot of prebiotic fiber. The raw and cooked vegetables are a big jump in wise food choices, but most typical salad vegetables and fruits just are not as fiber-rich as one would suspect.
- Lettuce - 1 cup - less than 1g total
- Onions - 1/4 cup - less than 2g total
- Cucumber - 1 cup - less than 1g total
- Bell Pepper - 1 whole - 2g total
- Mushrooms - 1/4 cup - less than 1g total fiber
- Fresh peas - 1/4 cup - less than 2g total
Typical Salad-bar Type Salad - 10-15g total, 2-5g fermentable/soluble/prebiotic fibers. Typical "Paleo" days contain roughly 10-20g of total fiber with 5-10g of fermentable fibers.
Paleo + Starches (AKA "Perfect Health Diet")
Simply adding cooked, hot potatoes and rice to a paleo type diet is problematic for a lot of people. It usually leads to some initial weight gain unless some forethought is given to reducing calories a bit in other areas. However, adding in starches does add a bit more fiber to the diet.
Paleo + PHD + Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF)
If you have read any WAPF information, they are in favor of including many whole grains. This will add a whole new layer of fibers not found in the typical low carb Paleo or PHD type diets. The problem is that now most of us are at a level of "carbs" that we don't like and may see a return of weight we so desperately needed to lose. Along with some extra calories also comes some extra weight in the large intestine as your gut flora discovers this amazing bounty you are feeding it. A well-fed large intestine may weigh 6-10 pounds when full. A dehydrated, low-carb, fiber-poor large intestine may only weigh half that.
What to do?
Well, we have to eat something, right? Might as well make each bite count. I think that one problem is that we get comfortable eating a certain way because we find it keeps our weight stable and it's easy. I'm all for this, but with a few easy tweaks, you can turn almost any diet into a diet rich in fiber and especially fermentable, prebiotic fibers.
I HATE counting the bits of food that I put in my mouth! I don't count calories of food or grams of fat. I think it's counter-productive, but it can be useful just to get some perspective on what you actually eat. In that regard, I'd just like to point out that learning what foods are high in prebiotic fibers will be helpful if you include some of these high-fiber foods in your diet regularly.
A typical day for me:
Breakfast - Oatmeal cooked al-dente, honey, nuts
Lunch - Salad bar salad, 4-6 oz fish or chicken
Snack - Greenish banana
Dinner - Raw and cooked veggies, serving of starchy veg, 8-12 oz meat, berries, cheese, mushrooms
Snack - Nuts, dark chocolate, dried plantains
1500-2500 calories, 50-100g total fiber, 25-50g fermentable/soluble/prebiotic fiber.
Tricks: Pre-cook beans, potatoes, or rice and cool. Eat some ancient grains like teff, quinoa, or black rice occasionally. Try unconventional salad items such as Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens and roots, parsnips, raw beets, cold beans, etc.. Make polenta from corn or teff and serve cold.
I think the trick is to just simply incorporate these high fiber foods into your daily routine and do it regularly. There is no secret amount. Don't count the grams, but if you do, I think you'll see you can get 50g of total fiber rather easily, especially if you remember to count the added bonus of resistant starch.
Voices of ReasonI asked GabKad, Gemma, and Wilbur to give me a few paragraphs on how they have been incorporating fiber into their day. This simple request turned into about 30 emails where we discussed everything from fiber to family recipes to colonic motility sensors. I'll try to get the relevant bits from each of these amazingly insightful folks (who all asked that I don't call them 'experts').
I think the decision making part is the tough stuff. A person needs to be organized in order to make nutritious food choices these days. There is literally a visual barrage of junkfood purveyors everywhere. And if you don’t see them, you smell them. The only way to ensure healthy eating is to plan ahead. Menu planning for a week is crucial to healthy eating and weight management. This is discipline. Eventually it becomes habit. We have been lulled into a sense of ‘oh it doesn’t matter, you can just pick up something whenever you are hungry’.......NOT. People need to realize that depending on huge corporations to decide what is ‘good’ for us is a fool’s game. And if you don’t keep junk food at home you won’t be eating it. Who said that about ‘if you are hungry eat an apple. If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple then you are not hungry.’ (My father did that to us. He left a bowl of apples on the kitchen table. No cookies in the cupboard. It was ‘if you are hungry, eat apples’.
Salads can include stuff like chickpeas, black eye peas, lentils. People make salads with wheatberries but oat groats are awesome if someone doesn’t want gluten. In other words, salad does not have to mean ‘green stuff only’. There’s your resistant starch. Salads take time for shopping, preparation, cooking..... people don’t have time. They commute for hours every day. That’s part of the problem. They are dead tired by the time they get home and don’t want to start washing, chopping, mixing...choosing, decision making. That’s why menu planning is crucial. We’ve been led to believe that planning ahead is oh so boring and dull. Impulse eating doesn’t work out too well.
I have a family to feed which includes 2 picky teenagers, so I have arrived to a couple of simple ideas how to increase fiber content of our meals, meaning everyday dinners, and lunches and dinners on most weekends. I have no control over my kids breakfasts unfortunately, they feel too independent and eat whatever they like most mornings.
Rule number 1: Everybody is obliged to eat a portion of my mixed salad no matter what, which I prepare every day, and it really does not take much time.
The dressing: olive oil + vinegar + salt + pepper + other spices of choice + perhaps mustard all whipped together.
In goes: finely cubed RAW onion and/or scallions and/or leeks, next sliced/cubed/julienne RAW carrots, cucumber, radishes, celery, tomatoes, broccoli AND cooked and cooled chickpeas [ is that the same as garbanzo? ] or lentils AND a cubed/sliced apple or pear or blueberries AND some nuts or sesame or sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and mix well. This can be prepared beforehand and sit in the fridge).
Add some leafy greens or cabbage before serving. A hint: I sometimes manage to hide even some sauerkraut in that and nobody notices!
Rule number 2: Add some spontaneity to the organized order and careful planning, again using the trick of hiding the "suspicious looking stuff" in a side dish everybody takes.
So for instance: not just simple rice but orange rice: Roast sliced onions in a bit of fat (coconut, ghee) together with some turmeric powder and grounded black pepper, add rice and small orange or green lentils, add water and salt and boil till soft. Nobody has a chance to separate the lentils from the rice, once on a plate, and it tastes great. It can be reheated, too.
Or, use the previously cooked potatoes this way: peel and grate them thin, and add finely grated onion and crushed garlic and some salt and pepper, and fry in a pan. So called Rösti, it used to be traditional breakfast of Swiss farmers, together with coffee.
Another nice potato + sauerkraut + meat idea would be potato dumplings, I keep some in the freezer, see image:
I also fill them with plums, eaten with grated poppy seeds and a bit of sugar.
P.S. My salad remark described the salad part of our dinner only, there is more usually.
Tonight is New Year's Eve. What a great night for exploring food choices! Tim's request for a couple of paragraphs made me think about what I was doing tonight, and as a consequence I remembered a "trick" that I did early on. I'd forgotten all about it.
So our annual tradition is lots of stinky cheese, salami, ham, and bread. A year ago, that's exactly what I had. This year, I had these things again as part of our tradition. But, either from habit or desire, I added stuff - probably 18 raw okra, approximately a cup of blackberries, and 1/4 cup of currants. A quick Google search says there are 6 g of fiber in the okra, 8 g in the blackberries, and 1.2 in currants. A meal that would normally be high fat and low quality carb suddenly has about 15 g of fiber, more than most people get all day. And guess what? I could not eat as much of the "bad" stuff as I might otherwise have.
My "trick" early on in my weight loss is that I could eat what I wanted and until I was full, but I had to eat substantial fiber along with it. The fiber should be mostly in the form of raw vegetables. Eat pizza, but with raw carrots, celery, and arugula. Enjoy a burger and fries, but make sure you have raw onion, raw spinach, and perhaps some (no sugar) pot beans. Or lentils. Put raw green onions on anything that takes it - baked potatoes, omelettes, etc. Eat raw kale, collard greens, radishes, jicama, broccoli, and so on. Eat these things while prepping or heating the rest of your meal. I'm sorry, but forget the lettuce.
There are several benefits. You get more fiber. You are eating more vegetables with more vitamins and minerals. There is little prep time. You are crowding out less healthy foods and eating less of them. There is evidence that food digests less efficiently in the presence of fiber, so you get fewer calories than you might otherwise. Eat what you want, but along with good fiber. Instead of worrying about eating less, worry about eating more fiber!
GabKad Part II:
Gemma, you basically do the same as I, except my kids are grown up and gone. I used to make mixes as well. I’d sautee finely chopped, carrots, celery, onion, mushroom, lightly steamed green beans, red peppers, yellow peppers then add chopped parsley and cilantro..... gently mix it into rice. Volume wise is was 50% vegetables. This way they got a big mixture of vegetables along with the rice. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is a Sephardic recipe for ‘good luck’. LOL!
With mashed potatoes, I’d mash them until as smooth as possible, then mix in cultured butter, incorporate fully and then start adding buttermilk and keep whipping it until it’s silky smooth. Let it sit for a few minutes and voila! They got their fermented stuff in the potatoes. I would buy an entire retail box of brown (cremini) mushrooms from the mushroom farm and make a mushroom stew with onion, peppers, and paprika. They’d stack a volcano of mashed potatoes on the plate, make the hole in the middle and pour mushroom stew into it. At the end, they’d lick the plate clean..... always a favourite. Lots of fibre, lots of probiotic, but not much in the way of resistant starch since the potatoes were mashed.
Funny how back in those days I was not ‘thinking’ along the lines of fibre but just ‘attractive delicious healthy food’. I think food on the plate should have lots of colour because ‘we eat with our eyes’.
During the summer, nowadays being by myself, I’ll come home after work and make a similar salad to yours except no sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Romaine lettuce, mini cucumbers, tomato, white onion, sweet red peppers, chickpeas, tuna in olive oil, lots of chopped dill, cilantro, black olives, capers, and lime juice. (salt).... If not tuna then feta cheese tossed with a bit of dried oregano and then a vinaigrette like yours. That’s my BigAss Salad. Doesn’t need anything else for supper. I put it in a gigantic bowl so I can mix it up nicely and just eat it straight out of the bowl. (Btw, capers are anti-inflammatory.)
I only eat sauerkraut cooked. Raw, naturally fermented makes my guts go crazy. When the kids were young, I’d bake Hungarian sausage with potato chunks and a thick layer of sauerkraut on top. No complaints. The potato would end up not super soft like this. The last 10 minutes I’d move the sausages to the top so they’d get browned.
Green cabbage: shredded. Bacon is rendered in the pan until the bacon bits are crunchy. Remove the bacon bits. Add sliced onion and caraway seeds. Sautee until onion is golden, add the shredded cabbage, raise the heat and stir fry until just done. Serve with bacon bits on top.
Do you ever make grated cabbage with egg noodles? I never added sugar but just fried the cabbage in lard until it was brownish, add lots of black pepper then mix with cooked noodles, put it under the grill and brown the top noodles to crunchy. So they’d get the, in my opinion, relatively not ideal egg noodles but with lots of cabbage.
Sorry Tim. Gemma makes me go down memory lane.....
Wilbur Part II:
In terms of fibers, it might be worth mentioning "not cooking with." I think we've all three mentioned raw stuff as a point of emphasis. Or cooking less.
Also, green onions, leeks, asparagus, fennel, arugula, endive, spinach, jicama, carrots, celery, parsnips (raw), turnips (raw), beets (raw), kale (raw), collard greens (raw), green beans (roast with ghee to get raw edge off, but eat crunchy). In terms of fruit, blackberries, figs. I don't eat many others as I eat baobab and amla as supplements. Blueberries are iffy. The one right now are plump and tasteless sweet. Small, more bitter ones are good. Kumquats are fantastic.
Also, eat a whole bunch of different things. I'm no expert, but some people seem to have issues with eating a ton of beets, say. Eat natural amounts. Put the blender away!
Gemma Part II:
Cooked sauerkraut is always welcome - I make Szegedin Goulash and everybody loves that.
- 600 g pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 700 g sauerkraut
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 100 g lard
- 1 - 2 tbsp. tomato purée
- 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 - 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 125 ml sour cream
- salt, freshly ground pepper
- water or beef stock
GabKad Part III:
Americans don’t know good food. Ha ha!
Sometimes I’d make what I called ‘war soup’.... it had sauerkraut in it and dried, rehydrated in the soup sourdough rye. There was smoked sausage (Csabai) too and whatever. Leftover roast pork.....potato, onion, garlic.....Tasted great. Sort of ‘everything that’s in the kitchen soup’...
Do you ever make that Russian thing, Okroshka? Love it. http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/kefir-okroshka-russian-cold-vegetable-soup/ So refreshing. Another probiotic/resistant starch/soluble fibre bomb!
Wilbur Part III:
Onion skins are great too! Especially the one that is both papery but soft and pliant. It takes a little more chewing than garlic.
The roots of green onions are interesting too. Sharp bite with almost an effervescent feel on the nose. I've become an onionphile!
Back when I ate green bananas, I used to eat the skins. (Shudder!)
Gemma Part III:
Eating nice mixture or fibers, or something along that slows the fermentation down, a la "acarbose effect". Polyphenols, for instance. Have coffee, or green tea after the meal :-) at least.
And also we thought it might be nice to make a list of high-impact foods high in fiber. Make it your New Year's resolution to keep these on your weekly shopping list and learn new ways to use them!
- Dark chocolate
- Eggplant (Wilbur says "eat the skin!")
- Fresh potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
- Gluten-free whole grains (oats, buckwheat, teff, quinoa etc..)
- Green bananas/Plantains
- "Greens" (beet, collard, kale, chard, etc...cooked and raw)
- Honey (raw, local, wax/pollen included)
- Rice (colored, wild)
Next up, we'll discuss fiber supplements. What to take and how to buy.
Happy New Year