If you have ever struggled with high cholesterol, digestive issues, or even tried to lose weight, you have likely been given the recommendation to include more fiber in your diet. While a high-fiber diet is often recommended, many people don’t know what fiber is or how much they should be consuming.
There are also many popular high-fiber diets and high-fiber packaged foods that advertise weight loss and make other health claims. While fiber is absolutely a beneficial nutrient, it is still important to acknowledge the pros and cons of alternative diets so you can determine if a particular diet or eating pattern is right for you, is aligned with your goals, and most importantly, fits into your lifestyle!
How it works
While a high-fiber diet may not necessarily be a trademarked diet, it is definitely encouraged by many. Some fad diets even encourage upwards of over 60 grams of fiber per day and promote diet foods containing 20 grams of fiber per serving! However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 grams of fiber for women per day and 38 grams for men.1 This may not sound like a lot to some, but getting in over 20 grams per day with whole foods may take some planning.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant foods that our bodies cannot break down during digestion. Because our bodies are unable to digest fiber, it offers us a variety of benefits, however, it does not provide a sufficient source of energy. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is able to dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance. This allows it to slowly move from the stomach to the intestine. Types of soluble fiber include legumes, oats, potatoes, and bananas.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but rather holds onto water. This allows it to support our digestive system through regular bowel movements. Types of insoluble fiber include whole grains, nuts, and various vegetables and fruits.
The Benefits of a High-Fiber Diet
Fiber has continuously been shown to be beneficial for heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, and digestive health.
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol in the body and removing it. In turn, this can help reduce the risk of heart disease.2
Because fiber is digested much slower than refined carbohydrates, it prevents major blood sugar spikes and can help control blood sugar levels when in a meal.3
Since fiber slows the rate in which food travels from the stomach to the rest of the digestive system, it can make you feel fuller for longer and help with satiety.4
Fiber is able to increase the bulkiness of the food as it goes through the digestive system, which can help with more regular bowel movements.
The Disadvantages of a High-Fiber Diet
With fiber, there can be too much of a good thing. Some people experience digestive upset, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain when on a high-fiber diet, especially when adding in too much at once.
Additionally, there are populations in which more fiber is not necessarily better. For example, due to fiber’s lower calorie content and high satiety factor, if you are someone who is trying to gain weight, struggling with an eating disorder, or has digestive issues, then more fiber is not necessarily better. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions or are wondering if a high-fiber diet is the right approach for you.
When adding fiber to your diet, start slow. Start by adding a few grams per day and then increase slowly from there. Remember, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 grams of fiber for women per day and 38 grams for men. Unless your medical provider recommends otherwise, there is no need to go above those amounts!
How to Do It Better
Each person’s body is unique and finding a diet that works is difficult. The safest approach is to use science as the basis of your decision, no matter which diet you’re considering trying out for yourself.
Incorporating more fiber in your diet is based on years of research and is promoted by many dietitians and medical professionals.A couple of modifications may help a person whose lifestyle is suited for this eating pattern to be even more successful by incorporating an eating for your genesapproach.
What Does Eating for Your Genes Entail?
Eating for your genes utilizes your unique DNA and genotype as a science-based blueprint for what you eat based on how you metabolize certain macronutrients, micronutrients, and substances. It is rooted in the understanding that you are an individual and as an individual, your body is unique and therefore there is no “one-fits-all” approach to healthy eating.
How Does Eating for Your Genes Work?
You are one of a kind. Our bodies each have at least slightly varying needs as we all respond differently to the world around us and metabolize nutrients differently. Studies demonstrate we can personalized nutrition by taking a look at our individual genetic variations and use this information to construct a solid dietary foundation.
Those genetic variants and their related nutritional outcomes have been thoroughly researched. Once we know our genetic variations, we have a better idea of which foods can help us optimize our diet. For example, you may have a genetic variant that indicates you are predisposed to a lower BMI if you consume a diet higher in fiber or you have a decreased ability to convert beta-carotene to active vitamin A. In this case, it may be helpful to consume more vitamin A-rich foods—such as seafood, full-fat milk, or fortified dairy products.
Benefits of Eating for Your Genes
Why does the concept of implementing a DNA-based eating program seem so novel? It is because the innovative nature of nutrigenomics creates a science-based roadmap for us when it comes to our food choices. With information about your genetic makeup, you can start to pinpoint which foods should be included in your diet and how much. Eating for your genes is not a specific diet per se, it instead is a true eating plan. If you do like a more traditional or structured weight-loss approach, as many people do since they can help our brain compartmentalize information, using your DNA as a guide you can begin to better tailor a structured or commercial program to your needs and may increase your odds of success. Nutrigenomics gives us the insights we need to make specific, thoughtful, and strategic choices about what we put into our bodies to prevent chronic diseases and gain optimal nutrition.
DNA testing companies like GenoPalate can help you interpret and understand your genotype and nutritional recommendations to make truly informed decisions on how to distribute your calories wisely and to choose foods that will nourish your body and help to achieve prime health.
Disadvantages of Eating for Your Genes
The biggest shortcoming that comes with eating for your genes is that DNA test reports do not account for epigenetics or medical conditions. Thus, you should combine the eating for your genes method with any additional medical information you have—such as blood test results—to determine your ideal diet. We recommend working with your healthcare provider to fill in any missing pieces so you end up with a holistic plan and know exactly how to achieve your health and wellness goals.
How to Determine the Right Way to Eat for Your Body
The great thing about eating for your genes is that it is not a FAD diet, but simply understanding how your body responds to both macronutrients and micronutrients and adjusting your intake to better align with those parameters. Additionally, it is personalized to your unique needs and it can be incorporated into your everyday life in numerous ways. In fact, eating for your genes can help prevent you from engaging in FAD diets, which are often not sustainable and result in the regaining of any weight that may have been lost. Moreover, for those eating programs that have withstood the test of time and have evidence that they can help people lose weight, an eating for your genes approach can be incorporated and may help individuals achieve their goals successfully.
The first step to this DNA based eating approach is educating yourself further. To do so, you can learn more by reading this article about how to personalize your weight loss experience orcheck out this FREE resource to see what personalized nutrition based on your DNA might look like and what it can do for you! You may be surprised at how fast you start to see results when you select the right path for your body and what makes you unique.
Ellis, Reviewed by Esther. “Fiber.” EatRight, https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/fiber.
“High Fiber Diet: Types of Food & Health Benefits.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14400-improving-your-health-with-fiber.
Weickert MO, Pfeiffer AF. Metabolic effects of dietary fiber consumption and prevention of diabetes. J Nutr. 2008 Mar;138(3):439-42. doi: 10.1093/jn/138.3.439. PMID: 18287346.
Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x. PMID: 11396693.