High Fibre Foods - The Weight Loss Connection
We have talked a lot about the importance of gut bacteria in maintaining a healthy bowel and keeping a stable body weight. People who struggle with weight issues often lack the necessary diversity in the microorganism residents of their lower bowel. Everyone needs good amounts of many different species and strains of microorganisms in the bowel to stay healthy. This is why we have added 6 different strains of probiotics to our Wheyless shakes. These are healthy strains which have been shown to thrive in human intestines and combat unhealthy microbial varieties such as E.coli, Salmonella, Vibrio and Helicobacter that tend to bloom following antibiotic treatment and are associated with food poisoning, leaky gut and inflammatory bowel diseases.
A healthy bowel is one with the full complement of microorganisms. Just like us, bacterial colonies need an optimal diet so that they can grow and thrive. This diet consists of food that is high in fibre, both soluble and insoluble. The main sources are from vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
No doubt you’ve noticed all the hype around the Paleo diet recently. Many “paleo” eaters concentrate on fat and protein but unfortunately fail to understand that our ancestor hunters and gatherers appear to have eaten around 100g fibre each day. Compare this to the 18-25g fibre per day which Australians are recommended to consume, and even more problematically, compare it to our actual intake, estimated to be more like 4-10g per day.
For most people, paleo is not the problem. Actually the real issue is our long term love affair with refined carbohydrates, sugar, sweetened beverages, alcohol and other highly processed foods, all of which contain no fibre. According to the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey 2011-12 released in May last year, only 4% of Australians are presently eating the required daily amount of vegetables and legumes. Such dietary shortcomings have many problems, not the least of which is an inadequate supply and variety of microorganisms in the lower bowel.
Fibre contains particular carbohydrates, which are resistant to digestion and are not actually absorbed. Instead they undergo a fermentation process in the lower bowel whereby good bacteria produce short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate and lactate. These SCFs nourish our intestinal cells and produce a desirable acidic environment which prevents “leaky bowel” and inhibits the entrance into the body of toxic inflammatory products from the bad bacteria. These toxic products are associated with weight gain, especially in the form of visceral or tummy fat.
So it’s clear that having the wrong balance of microorganisms in the gut can result in weight gain. The prestigious journal, Nature, published some interesting research in its December 2006 issue from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. When bacteria are taken from genetically obese mice and transferred into the sterilized guts of normal weight mice, they start gaining weight. This was without any change in their diet or activity. In other words having the wrong balance of microorganisms in the gut can be a major driver of weight gain even in the presence of a normal diet. The same situation has also been found in humans. It underlines the importance of having high fibre foods and sources of good bacteria in the diet to nourish and encourage diversity in the composition of the micro-organisms that live in our gut. It also underlines the need to pay special attention to the care and recovery of the gut at all times of stress or illness when the balance is prone to be tipped in the wrong direction.
How does the Australian diet stack up? We’re told that Australian women should be eating a minimum of 25g fibre daily and men 30g. Well, it’s a pretty personal matter and one you might like to calculate for your own family. You can find many lists of high fibre foods online like this one from the Mayo Clinic:
- Artichoke, boiled 1 medium = 10.3g
- Green peas, boiled 1 cup = 8.8g
- Broccoli, boiled 1 cup = 5.1g
- Split peas, boiled 1 cup = 16.3g
- Lentils, boiled 1 cup = 15.6g
- Black beans, boiled 1 cup = 15.0g
- Lima beans, boiled 1 cup = 13.2g
- Baked beans, cooked/canned 1 cup = 10.4g
- Barley, pearled, cooked 1 cup = 6.0g
- Raspberries 1 cup = 8.0g
- Pear, with skin 1 medium = 5.5g
You can really make a big difference to the quantity and type of microorganisms in the bowel by ensuring a good supply of fibre in your daily diet, together with a supply of probiotics. Naturally fermented food products are increasingly available to help you with this. Think yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha. Probiotic supplements containing several strains are also highly beneficial.