In the school of nutrients, fiber is hardly ever the Cool Kid. It’s often eclipsed by other more popular nutrients like protein, but it certainly deserves your attention. Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle, co-founders of Sakara Life—the organic plant-based meal delivery service loved by celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, Karlie Kloss, and Lily Aldridge—say only two percent of Americans get the recommended daily amount of fiber. But why should you care?
“Fiber is essential for digestion, regulating hormones, nourishing our detoxification organs, and circulating blood,” the duo tell ELLE.com. “Perhaps most notably: Plant fiber and water is what the bacteria in your gut—your microbiome—require to thrive. Fiber is gut food.”
According to integrative gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a microbiome expert, fiber also helps boost the immune system and helps for smoother, more efficient digestion. It can decrease chances of developing colon cancer, gallstones, bloating, acid reflux, IBS, and every other ailment you can think of related to your gut.
Ahead, Tingle and Duboise, who are launching a new cookbook, Eat Clean Play Dirty, break down everything you need to know about easy ways to incorporate more fiber in your diet, which food provides the most of it, and which popular snack you should avoid.
Plants are the best sources of fiber.
Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens
“One of the many reasons we love plants, beyond the phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, is the hydrating fiber they provide,” they say. Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, arugula, kale, collard greens, and bok choy.
Legumes are another strong source of fiber. Favorites of Dubois and Tingle include beans (they call out adzuki, specifically), chickpeas, nuts and lentils.
“We digest them easier and the phytic acid is broken down,” says Dubois and Tingle of picks like sprouted almonds and sprouted walnuts.
Processed fiber snacks aren’t the answer.
Fiber-rich crackers are popular quick fixes, but Duboise and Tingle say nothing beats whole foods. “They may have high fiber content but they are also processed and lack electrolytes, making it incredibly dehydrating, which has a negative impact on your colon and digestion,” they warn.
Keep adding greens to your plate.
When in doubt, Duboise and Tingle recommend adding a handful of organic greens in every meal or snack you’re enjoying, whether it be a smoothie, soup, or bowl. “It’s transformative. Make greens the focus and you will see tremendous changes in your physical health,” they say. Six to eight cups of greens per day is their general recommendation.
Remember, low fiber intake can affect everything from sleep to sex drive.
“The symbiotic bacteria in our microbiome and gut need to feed off something, and if they lack proper fiber intake, that’s when they start to feed on sugars, causing dysbiosis (microbial imbalance), hormone imbalances, and other gut-related issues,” the Sakara founders claim. “Your microbiome and gut are the second brain and dictate so much of your overall vitality and wellbeing, including proper REM sleep, mood, energy, sex drive, metabolism, digestion— even how your calories are absorbed.”