Dr. Dennis Burkitt, the famous English physician, studied the differences between indigenous African bushmen and their “civilized” western counterparts. The bushmen seemed to be free of the scourges of modern life — including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Dr. Burkitt found that the average bushman had a daily stool weight of two pounds and the “civilized” men had a stool weight of only four ounces – that’s 87.5 percent smaller!
The difference was in the amount of fiber they ate.
Today, the average American eats about 8 grams of fiber a day. But humans evolved eating 100 grams from all manner of roots, berries, leaves and plant foods. And the fiber is what helped those ancestors of ours stay healthy.
You need fiber to keep you healthy, and to provide food for the healthy bacteria that work within you to promote health.
Fiber can prevent obesity and all the chronic disease of aging. This is because fiber slows the rate at which food enters your bloodstream and increases the speed at which food exits your body through the digestive tract. That keeps your blood sugar and cholesterol in ideal balance — and quickly eliminates toxins from your gut and reduces your appetite.
Research shows that fiber can lower blood sugar as much as some diabetes medications, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss.
One recent study showed that butyrate, made by intestinal bacteria from certain types of fiber, acts as a switching molecule that turns on an anticancer gene, and turns off colon cancer. In fact, fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as a third and breast cancer by almost 40 percent.
It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent.
If you already have diabetes, adding fiber to your diet may even help you use less insulin. Plus, it’s a great natural cure for constipation and irregularity, as we probably all know by now.
You should shoot to get 30 to 50 grams of fiber into your diet every day. The type of fiber you choose is important, too.
Most people think that bran is the best type of fiber to eat. But bran (wheat fiber) is mostly insoluble and doesn’t get digested. Think of it as more of a scouring pad for your intestines.
That’s good for getting you regular, but it doesn’t help your health the way that soluble fiber does.
You’ll find soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and most whole grains. The bacteria in your gut metabolizes the soluble fiber in these foods, and that’s when the benefits start.
Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin, prevent cancer, balance hormone levels, remove excess estrogen and reduce the risk of breast cancer, make vitamins and minerals, provide food for the colon cells, and more.
Glucomannan (GM) is a soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous dietary fiber that comes from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac (Amorphophallus konjac or Amorphophallus rivieri), native to Asia. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods such as konjac jelly, tofu, and noodles. More recently, purified konjac flour, or GM, has been used as a food stabilizer, gelling agent, and supplement.
What makes this fiber so super is the fact that it can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, making it one of the most viscous dietary fibers known.
That means that GM can help you shed pounds. In many studies, doses of two to four grams of GM per day were well-tolerated. This amount also resulted in significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.
GM works by promoting a sense of fullness. Plus, it pushes more calories out through your colon, rather than letting them be absorbed. It also lowers the energy density of the food you eat. In other words, it bulks up food in your gut, creating a lower calorie content per weight of food you eat.
And since fiber has almost no calories but a lot of weight, adding it to your diet lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that you eat. Studies show that the weight of food controls your appetite, so the fiber increases the food’s weight WITHOUT increasing calories — a critical factor in weight control.
This powerful fiber may also control your appetite in other key ways.
For example, it sends signals to your brain that there is a lot of food in your gut and tells it to slow down on stuffing food in there.
GM also leaves your stomach and small bowel slowly because it is so viscous. By slowing the rate of food absorption from the gut to the bloodstream, GM reduces the amount of insulin produced after a meal, which also controls your appetite.
It may also increase the level of hormones in the gut (such as cholecystokinin), which is another way to control your appetite.
And finally, you lose more calories through stool because GM soaks up all those extra
GM can also help your health in other ways. In addition to weight reduction, GM has been studied for its effects on constipation, serum cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, and insulin resistance syndrome.
Here are some simple suggestions for increasing fiber in your diet.
1. Get the flax. Get a coffee grinder just for flax seeds, grind 1/2 cup at a time, and keep it in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge or freezer. Eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day. Sprinkle it on salads, grains, or vegetable dishes or mix it in a little unsweetened applesauce.
2. Load up on legumes. Beans beat out everything else for fiber content!
3. Bulk up on vegetables. With low levels of calories and high levels of antioxidants and protective phytochemicals, these excellent fiber sources should be heaped on your plate daily.
4. Go with the grain. Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa are rich in fiber, too.
5. Eat more fruit. Include a few servings of low-sugar fruits to your diet daily (berries are the highest in fiber and other protective phytochemicals).
6. Go nuts. Include a few handfuls of almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts to your diet every day.
7. Start slowly. Switching abruptly to a high-fiber diet can cause gas and bloating. Increase your fiber intake slowly till you get up to 50 grams a day.
8. Consider a good fiber supplement. If you’re have trouble getting your fill of fiber, choose a supplement that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber and no sweeteners or additives.
9. Choose GM. Many companies sell it in capsule form. You can take 2 to 4 capsules with a glass of water, 30 to 60 minutes before eating. Don’t take any medications within 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking it because the fiber may absorb the medication.