March 06, 2022

How Fiber Has Completely Changed My Habits


It's been a little over two months since I made my "New Year's Resolutions" (i.e. goals) for 2022, including increasing my fiber intake. I've always known that fiber is good for us, but I never really understood WHY. Most of what you hear about it is that it makes you feel full faster/longer. That wasn't a real explanation to me.

I don't remember much about what I learned about fiber from my nutrition courses in college, but I'm sure a lot of that info is completely outdated anyway. I definitely never heard of the "gut microbiome" until a few years ago. I won't get into all that because it would take several posts just to scratch the surface of it; but this article on "thebmj" (medical journal) explains a lot of it really well, with a ton of citations. This is just the opening paragraph, to get an general idea of what the microbiome is:


Anyway, rather than make extreme changes to my diet, I decided simply to focus on increasing my fiber intake, which helps produce a healthy microbiome. The recommended intake for women is 25+ grams per day and for men it's 38+ grams. It wasn't until after I started paying attention to my fiber that I realized I was probably not even getting half of what is recommended!

Again, I didn't want to do anything extreme--rather than change everything I was eating, I simply started by looking for similar foods to swap out or where I could add fiber to meals (using an extra can of beans in chili for example). At the time that I made this goal, I had no idea what a huge influence it would have on my daily diet.

Changes I've noticed since increasing my fiber to 20+ grams per day:

  • I'll state the obvious first: I am very "regular" now. But best of all, I don't get bloated or get stomachaches for what seems like no reason. My digestive system feels much better!
  • Cravings for junk food have reduced by about 95%. I'm not even exaggerating. It's not that I crave "healthy" foods; I don't really get cravings at all anymore. I'm not sure how long it took for me to notice this, but I would guess a couple of weeks after increasing my fiber.

  • In order to get in more fiber, I started using my calories for high-fiber foods; because of that, I didn't spend those calories on junk food. This is part of what sparked my decision to start eating vegan about a month after increasing my fiber intake. There is no fiber in dairy or meat, so I wasn't eating much of those foods anyway. It wasn't hard at all to cut those out.

  • I have found it SO much easier to put together a meal now. I usually start with some sort of sauce--I like Asian flavors, so a stir-fry sauce is probably my favorite (consisting of tamari/soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and things like garlic and ginger). Once I decide on a sauce, I just think of other things to add to it: rather than rice, I like to use barley (it has a lot more fiber and I like the texture) or quinoa (a complete protein); I add some sort of beans (garbanzo beans are my go-to for a stir-fry sauce); and then add whatever vegetables I have (peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.). The combination may look very odd, but by adding a sauce to it, it tastes so good!

Here is a simple comparison of Sesame Chicken/Chickpeas using the same ingredients for the sauce. The sesame chicken with rice has 2.4 grams of fiber for the bowl shown:



Swap out the chicken for chickpeas, and it goes up to 9.7 grams of fiber:



Now, I replace the rice with barley, and it's up to 17.7 grams of fiber:


And finally, throw in a handful of broccoli, bringing the total to 19.2 grams!


See how it adds up quickly?

It's easy to make the dinner for Jerry and the kids, too (who still eat meat and dairy). I just make chicken or something on the side and they use the same sauce I do. They just add the sauce to chicken and rice or whatever they choose. That way I'm not cooking separate meals, just a few separate ingredients. I have a container of cooked barley in the fridge so I don't have to cook it all the time.

  • When I *do* choose to eat something "junky", I'm much more sensitive to it now. I discovered this when I thought I would treat myself to dairy-free Haagen Dazs "ice cream". Despite the fact that it's vegan, there is nothing nutritious about it; but I have no plans to give up desserts if I want them. I only ate about 1/4 cup of it before my stomach started hurting. For probably the first time in my life, I put the lid back on the ice cream and put it in the freezer for another day.

  • I have more energy and motivation. I can only assume this is from increasing my fiber and/or eating vegan. I have actually been typing out my blog posts in the morning, because I have more motivation; I've also been running in the mornings due to having more energy. I used to put off my runs until the evening.

  • This may be completely unrelated--it's too soon to know--but my chronic pain has been getting better. I wasn't able to sleep on my stomach for a couple of years (it hurt my back and hips too much) but I am able to do that again. I had a very hard time moving in the mornings--even standing up from my bed hurt so badly I had to walk hunched over and stiff. Lately, I still feel sore and a bit stiff, but nothing like it was for the last couple of years. Again, it may be unrelated and maybe I'm just temporarily having a good break from the severe pain; I just really hope not!

  • I have a much more positive outlook about several things, but mostly my health. I've been eating healthier than I ever have before and it's not because I feel like I "should". I actually *want* to. My dad had to have heart surgery last year and the surgeon told him afterward that if he had gone even another week or two, he would have had a "widow maker" heart attack.

Turning 40 in January was very hard on me mentally (I made my family promise not to even mention my birthday) because getting older is scary! I no longer have youth on my side as far as my health goes. Since increasing my fiber (which led to a much healthier diet) I feel like I'm being proactive in my own outcome.

Well, those are the major benefits I've noticed since increasing my fiber intake. I used to get probably 10 grams of fiber per day, and then after making the goal to increase that, I was eating 25+ grams. Now, I probably get 40-50 grams. I'll work on a post about things I eat and how I get in so much fiber.

Fiber is something that you don't hear people talking about much anymore. We hear "keto" and "protein" and "gluten" and other words like that regarding diet, but fiber seems to have been in the backseat for a while. I'm really glad I chose to focus on fiber--it completely changed my mentality and habits, and I'm shocked at the benefits I've noticed. I'm kind of excited to have my yearly physical and lipid profile to see how it compares to previous years!

7 comments:

  1. Yes. This. When you eat fiber you select for the guys who like fiber and deselect for the guys who like sugar. So your gut tells your brain, "More fiber please," instead of "More sugar right now!" And the healthy spiral begins!

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  2. Hi Katie- Glad to see that you're noticing positive results after the fiber increase! I too will be turning 40 this year and not looking forward to it, so I understand. By some chance do you have the sesame chickpea recipe somewhere? I tried searching on your site but cannot find it. I would like to try making that. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I was just trying to figure out what to write about today, so I think I'll share that recipe. It's really good!

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  3. Very interesting! This is making me want to take a count of how much fiber I get in a day. I normally focus more on protein. My main issue with fiber is it tends to make me super gassy lol :)

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  4. Wow this is helpful. Thanks for showing the photos of the different bowls and the fiber content! I'm visual and that really drove your point home. And I'm so glad your pain levels are decreasing without you having to be on any more meds. As always, thanks for sharing your life with us. I learn so much!

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  5. My brain doesn’t know what to do with barley in that savory bowl of food.. I’ve only really ever had it as puffed sweetened cereal for breakfast. Yum! lol! I’m also very interested to see what this dietary change does for your cholesterol (or not) ; there’s so much argument online lately between the low carb folks and the vegan folks over whose diet is going to kill who. It’s crazy. I’m starting to believe that we are all so different that it just depends and we need to experiment to see what works for us like you’ve been doing. So glad that it seems to be helping with your pain!

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  6. The chickpeas, barley and broccoli looks so tasty!! I'd love to get that sauce recipe, too!

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