When you think about fiber, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Your grandma’s “Bowel Buddy Biscuits,” bran buds, prunes, a neon plastic container from the pharmacy?

I get it, fiber doesn’t have a sexy reputation. But I promise that once you get to know it better, you’ll change your mind. So please, allow me to introduce you to my soulmate carbohydrate – fiber!

Fiber is found exclusively in the plant kingdom from foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. There are two types of fiber: soluble, which dissolves in water, and insoluble, which does not.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate but unlike other carbs, it doesn’t effect blood sugar or contain calories. In fact, it’s not considered a “nutrient” at all because it contains no vitamins, minerals, or energy. Humans can’t digest it.

So… why bother eating fiber at all? Good question!

Fiber might not give you energy, build your muscles, or provide direct nutrition… but it’s got a whole bunch of other benefits that are going to blow your mind.

Fiber Makes for Epic Poops

Did you know that the lowest incidents of colorectal cancer occur in people who pass over one pound of stool per day. Yes, that means 1 pound of poop! Fiber naturally increases the amount of poop your body makes by adding bulk. If you’re prone to loose or hard poops, fiber can normalize them. That means you get to feel like a million bucks after your morning visit to the restroom.

Fiber Feeds Your Microbiome

We’re all working hard to create a better relationship with our gut bacteria. Taking a daily probiotic is fantastic, but getting enough fiber in your diet is just as important. The fiber actually acts as food to feed your microbiome. A high fiber diet is like sending your friendly gut bugs a muffin basket—they’ll definitely appreciate it.

Fiber Literally Cleans Out Your Body

You know that super clean, light, awesome feeling you have after an epic poop? It’s probably in part due to the fact that you just eliminated a whole pile of toxins from your body. Fiber has been shown to reduce levels of LDL (aka. “bad”) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and even bring down inflammation.

Fiber Keeps You Feeling Full

Find out for yourself! Take this breakfast challenge:

Pay attention to what time you feel hungry next and which smoothie keeps you fuller for longer. The pear and berry smoothie contains an additional 20g of fiber and will keep you feeling satisfied for hours.

Fiber Boosts Metabolism & Balances Your Blood Sugar

Thanks to it’s slow-digesting nature, high fiber meals can actually lower the rate at which sugar enters your blood stream. Not only is this great for people who must keep an eye on their blood sugars, it can also help prevent Type 2 Diabetes from occurring in the first place.

Because fiber is hard to digest yet contains no calories, it gives your metabolism a boost similar to a short workout.

How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet

In terms of quantity, I recommend most healthy people aim for an absolute minimum fiber intake of 35g per day. This is the amount required to prevent disease, but not necessarily to support optimal health. The Standard American Diet typically provides less than 20g, but humans evolved eating over 100g per day. We are eating less fiber than ever, and this may be a contributing factor to our chronic disease epidemic.

Now that you’re sold on the benefits, let’s talk about how you can easily boost your fiber intake. 

Heads-up: start slow, since too much extra fiber too fast can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort. Try incorporating one of these tips every day for a week before adding another.

These are 5 simple ways you can easily meet your minimum fiber intake.

Embrace the seedy side of life

You can easily start adding seeds to your meals! Just two tablespoons of whole flax or chia seed will provide an extra 6 grams of fiber. Add them to your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and even your quinoa salads. I love snacking on these High Fiber Flax Crackers between meals.

Adding fiber to baked goods is incredibly easy by switching to whole grain flours. You can also try adding ground flax to recipes by replacing up to ¼ of the flour in a recipe. Psyllium powder can also be added to items like breads and muffins to add fiber and keep them moist. Start with adding just 2 tablespoons per recipe. 

Incorporate plant-based proteins

A single cup of legumes (like chickpeas or lentils) will usually clock in at 10g to 15g of fiber unlike animal-based proteins, which provide no fiber at all! Choosing plant-based proteins at least once per day is a great way to get the benefits of fiber, while also enjoying variety and taking care of the environment.

Of all fruits, berries are highest in both antioxidants and fiber! In fact, try to get one cup of berries every day. Reach for berries more often than bananas, mangos, melon, grapes or other common fruit choices.

Popular snacks like potato chips, cheese and refined crackers are naturally low in fiber. But fear not, snack-a-holics! High fiber alternatives exist, and snack time can be a great opportunity to boost fiber intake. Choose raw veggies with hummus, fiber-rich dips, and chia pudding as high fiber alternatives to your favorite snacks.

Simply adding more fiber to your daily meals will decrease your risk of colorectal cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, lower your cholesterol, boost your metabolism, and keep you feeling full.

Let me know if you end up trying any of these tips, or if you have any favourite tips for getting more fiber into your diet!

This content was originally published here.