Getting Enough Fiber on a Low-Carb DietArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
So, you’ve started a low-carb diet and have been enjoying loads of delicious meat, cheese, eggs and oils. With so many tasty healthy fat and protein options, fiber may have become an afterthought in your daily eating regimen. After all, you’ve been told to limit high carb ingredients like fruit and whole grains. However, according to The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, we should be eating at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that comes from plants, says MedlinePlus. It can be found in plant-based ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. According to The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, fiber is unable to be digested by the human body and doesn’t get broken down into sugar (like most other carbs).
Dietary fiber comes in two healthy forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is able to be dissolved in water and is said to decrease blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber is unable to be dissolved in water, working to move food through your digestive system and prevent constipation, says The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They explain that high fiber intake is linked to the prevention of metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, diverticulitis and breast cancer.
As you can see, fiber is essential for proper health and disease prevention. But if fiber is technically a carbohydrate, how are you supposed to get enough when following a low-carb diet?
Fill Up with Fiber
Here at South Beach, we’re big fans of fiber for all the reasons we mentioned. But its ability to keep you feeling full is one of our favorites.
Many dieters fail because they choose an eating plan that doesn’t satiate hunger or provide them with proper nutrition. While you may feel hunger initially when you become accustomed to the low-carb, whole foods and smaller portions on the South Beach Diet, the feeling won’t last. That’s because the food you’re eating transforms your metabolism and lowers your insulin levels (which is what triggers cravings). Every food in our grocery guide is a healthy and nutritious option. Every fully-prepared South Beach Diet meal, snack or shake is loaded with protein, healthy fats and nutrients to fuel your body—including fiber.
In his book, The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet, Dr. Arthur Agatston (the creator of the South Beach Diet) explains how fiber controls hunger in partnership with hormones. “When you eat whole foods, the glucose from starch is absorbed more slowly because it is surrounded by fiber (as in steel-cut oats) or is part of a dense whole food that incorporates protein (such as quinoa),” he says. The farther foods pass into the small intestine before their fiber or protein is stripped away, the greater the chance that the proper ratio of incretin hormones are secreted into the blood stream. Specifically, the hormone GLP-1 communicates to the brain that we are full, while the hormone GIP stimulates the release of insulin.
Processed foods—even foods that we think are high in fiber (such as instant oatmeal)—aren’t, explains Dr. Agatston. “One of the first things many food manufacturers do to create certain processed foods is to remove or disrupt the fiber structure of the carbohydrates,” he says. Omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are stripped out, while addictive additives like sugar are added instead. Dr. Agatston explains that processed carbohydrates with disrupted fiber are essentially “pre-digested,” causing quicker absorption and the release of abnormally high amounts of GIP and insulin.
Low Carb, NOT No Carb
The best sources of fiber are vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and fruit, says Mayo Clinic. Strict low-carb diets typically restrict all of these ingredients because they’re high in carbs. However, the South Beach Diet is different. You’ll enjoy more quality carbs, higher protein levels and more food variety, including foods that are off-limits on most strict low-carb diets like whole grains and beans.
Our approach to weight loss limits your net carb intake to 50 grams or less per day. While South Beach Diet is a low-carb, healthy-fat approach, it’s not super strict. This ultimately makes our version of low-carb an easier transition and a long-term healthy lifestyle. It allows you to enjoy the benefits of low-carb without cutting healthy carbs completely out of your life.
Simple Tips to Increase Your Intake
Here at South Beach, we want you to obtain the bulk of your fiber from non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Here are a few clever ways to sneak more of these into your daily diet:
- Smoothies are a fiber vessel. Load them up with veggies like spinach, kale and Swiss chard or throw in some seeds like flax or chia.
- Serve your South Beach meals and DIY recipes over zoodles (zucchini noodles), spaghetti squash, salads or with non-starchy veggie side dishes.
- Fill up on high-fiber Healthy Fats like avocado and coconut (which is present in the meat, milk and water). Cook with them in your recipes, add them to smoothies and mix them into salad dressings and soups.
- If you’re on our standard plan, we recommend extremely limiting fruit due to the amount of carbohydrates and sugar. However, if you’d like to enjoy a small amount of fruit, choose options that are lower in carbs and higher in fiber. According to Healthline, berries tend to be relatively low in sugar. Count berries toward your allowed daily Extras and keep your net carbs limited to 50 grams or less each day.
Just remember; where there’s fiber, there must be plenty of water. Fiber can’t pass through the body unless it has water to guide it along, says FamilyDoctor.org. On the South Beach Diet, we recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of fluid each day.