3 min read

The Magic of *Real* Fiber

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Our culture has largely taught us that fiber is a lifeless and bland dietary component with a sole purpose as a lowly street sweeper for our bowels. At the behest of conventional advice, we hide fiber in boring bran muffins and sugar-packed powders and cross our fingers that we’ll stay regular.

I can almost imagine Rodney Dangerfield saying, “Real whole fiber don’t get no respect.” But it should be respected, as equally as we respect our arbitrarily deemed nutrient-in-chief, protein, trailed closely most recently by fats—perhaps even more respected. But not for the reason you may be thinking.To be sure, fiber is a bulky subject, and this letter is but a brief reimagining of fiber and its immense impact on our well-being. That said, allow me to drop a few facts that moved me (pun intended):  

  • You may know of the world’s “Blue Zones,” places with high numbers of people who live longer and more healthy lives than average—with 10 times greater rates of reaching age 100 than people in the U.S. (Buettner & Skemp, 2016). Guess what these long-lived and healthy populations eat a lot of? If you guessed fiber, you are correct. Not glasses of artificially flavored isolated bran or psyllium husk powders mixed with water, but abundant servings of delicious vegetables, nuts, and legumes in a whole ecosystem of fiber and phytonutrients.

  • Many modern humans eat significantly less real fiber than our ancestors—average calculated dietary fiber intake in the U.S. is 15 grams per day while our hunter-gatherer ancestors likely consumed what seems like a whopping 100 grams per day from a wide range of local plants (Eaton, 2006). This suggests humanity adapted to eat much more whole plant real fiber than almost all of us are now consuming.

  • Real fiber is so important to our gut microbes that if deprived of it, some evidence suggests they may instead actually consume our own precious protective gut lining (Courage, 2015), which opens the door to inflammatory disease states, accelerated aging, and compromised immunity. But, when we eat enough real fiber, our microbes stay well fed and many of their resulting postbiotics (metabolites) favor protection of the gut barrier as well as contribute to numerous other housekeeping tasks all around the body. 


The last point leads me to the big breakthrough story with real fiber, but one that rarely appears as a headline—as you might expect, it’s about the magic of the microbiome and the emerging understanding of all they do including the creation of what are called postbiotics. 

Indeed, I believe one of many real jewels of the real fiber story revolves around these postbiotics, which essentially provide cellular energy, keep us thriving, and protect our total well-being (LeBlanc et al., 2017). Postbiotics are immeasurable gifts that change our lives, brought to you by none other than real fiber. 

More on the phenomenal world of postbiotics another time, until then...

To fiber!


References

Buettner, D., & Skemp, S. (2016). Blue Zones: Lessons from the world's longest lived. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 10(5), 318–321. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30202288/

Courage, K. H. (2015). Fiber-famished gut microbes linked to poor health. Scientific American. Retrieved on February 16, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fiber-famished-gut-microbes-linked-to-poor-health1/ 

Eaton S. B. (2006). The ancestral human diet: What was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition? The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1079/pns2005471

LeBlanc, J. G., Chain, F., Martín, R., Bermúdez-Humarán, L. G., Courau, S., & Langella, P. (2017). Beneficial effects on host energy metabolism of short-chain fatty acids and vitamins produced by commensal and probiotic bacteria. Microbial cell factories, 16(1), 79. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12934-017-0691-z