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We asked experts: does walking help digestion? Here’s what they had to sayIn the wellbeing world, it’s fair to say that our gut health is having a bit of a moment. From microbiomes to finding out how to improve gut health, our digestive tract is trending – and it’s for good reason. Having a healthy digestive system is a sure-fire way to boost your overall wellbeing. After all, it’s the way in which your body processes the all-important nutrients it needs to keep your body and mind working as how it should.
Many of us don’t get enough fiber in our diet, so a high fiber diet plan can be a useful way to ensure an adequate intake. Not only is fiber essential for a healthy digestion but it’s also been associated with maintaining a healthy weight and even weight loss itself, according to research.
You might be more inclined to use one of the best exercise machines to lose weight, or perhaps follow a strict diet, however, adding fiber filled foods to your plate could offer an easier alternative.
Lisa Scheepers, nutritionist at Fresh Fitness Food, explains that dietary fiber can be found in plant-based foods and is the term used to describe a certain type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested in the small intestine.
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“Therefore fiber passes relatively unchanged into the large intestine — unlike sugars and starch,” she says.
Fiber tends to be split into two different categories. There’s soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and becomes a gel-like substance in the body, and then insoluble fiber, which doesn’t dissolve in water and retains its form in the body. According to Scheepers, our bodies require both soluble and insoluble fiber, and most plant-based foods provide a combination of both.
Here, she shares the simple (and delicious) ways to enjoy a high fiber diet plan.
Why is fiber important?
Fiber has several benefits, but Scheepers explains that its primary role is to help maintain a healthy digestive system.
“Insoluble fiber adds bulk to our stool and makes it softer,” she says. “This helps to decrease the gut transit time and prevents symptoms such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Plus, the bacteria that form the gut microbiome feed on fiber, so fiber is essential for optimizing gut health.”
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© Provided by Fit&Well Lisa Scheepers nutritionist
Lisa Scheepers is a nutritionist at Fresh Fitness Food. She holds a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from UC Leaven-Limburg in Belgium, and is a NSCA-certified personal trainer.
She adds that there is research showing that fiber improves our cardiovascular health too. This is because fiber lowers the total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein Scheepers the ‘bad’ cholesterol) without affecting HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the ‘good’ cholesterol).
Not forgetting that fiber has also been associated with a lower body weight. “Fibrous foods are often bulky and, therefore, filling,” says Scheepers. “This helps us to feel satiated for longer periods of time, which can help with weight management, by preventing overeating.”
As for how much we need, US guidelines recommend consuming 25-30g a day of fiber, however research states that the average fiber intake is about 15g per day. In the UK, government guidelines recommend 30g a day. However, like in the US, intakes are well below this.
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High fiber diet plan: Breakfast ideas
Getting fiber foods into your breakfast can be helpful, as Scheepers explains that a high fiber breakfast will help to keep you full for a longer amount of time. It will also help with your bowel movements, as well as a healthy stool pattern.
To increase your fiber intake at breakfast, Scheepers recommends adding oats to pancakes, adding muesli or granola to yogurt and adding fruit, where possible, to your breakfasts. It’s best to eat fruit with the skin on if possible, as the skin of fruit contains plenty of fiber. She also suggests sprinkling nuts and seeds over your breakfast and opting for toast with wholemeal bread instead of white. If you’re a fan of a savory breakfast, you could try adding legumes like beans and chickpeas.
- Overnight oats with fruit, seeds and/or nuts
- Chia pudding with fruit
- Breakfast burrito with eggs, beans, avocado and baby spinach
- Vegetable omelet: add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion and/or broccoli
High fiber diet plan: Lunch ideas
“A decent fiber intake at lunch has a positive effect on your blood glucose levels,” says Scheepers. “This supports us with a sustained energy level throughout the day, preventing that afternoon slump.”
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No slump can often mean we don’t turn to the sugary foods that give us quick boosts of energy. To increase your lunchtime fiber intake, Scheepers recommends including raw vegetables in your diet a few times a week. These can be enjoyed in a salad, add them to your sandwich, or have them as a snack on the side.
She suggests opting for wholemeal bread instead of white and adding grains like quinoa, barley, couscous and bulgur to your salads. Sprinkle nuts and seeds over your meal too.
- Sweetcorn and tuna salad bagel
- Roasted red pepper, carrot, and hummus sandwich
- Vietnamese summer rolls
- Greek quinoa bowl
- Pea and broad bean shakshuka
High fiber diet plan: Dinner ideas
“Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet and to make the most out of its benefits, it’s best to include it with every meal,” says Scheepers. Plus, eating fiber at dinner could help with digestive movements come the morning.
There are several simple ways to include more fiber at dinner. “Regularly swap pasta and white rice for wholemeal pasta, brown rice, and grains, such as quinoa,” suggests Scheepers. “Include plant-based options to your diet a couple of times a week, and swap meat in stews and curries for legumes like lentils, chickpeas and beans.
She also recommends adding plenty of vegetables to meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries. Plus, you could try swapping dessert for fruit instead.
- Mexican bean soup with guacamole
- Lamb with feta, lentils and mint
- Spaghetti with lentil bolognese
- Spiced chicken and chickpeas with bulgur salad
- Teriyaki salmon with greens and brown rice
High fiber snacks
There are lots of simple ways to incorporate fiber into your snack times. Scheepers suggests the below:
- Piece of fruit (if possible leave the skin on)
- Handful of dried fruits like raisins, mango or apricots
- Crudites (such as carrots and celery) with a dip like hummus or baba ganoush
- Handful of nuts
- Granola bar
It’s up to you how many snacks you have a day as everyone has different requirements, plus some people prefer smaller meals and snacks, whilst others might prefer bigger meals and less snacks.
It’s worth noting, however, that when it comes to high fiber foods, if your body isn’t used to fiber, it’s wise to build up your fiber intake slowly. This can help to avoid any potential digestive discomfort.
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