Fiber a non-essential, essential nutrient in my book. Fiber is one nutrient I talk a lot about with clients. This non-essential nutrient, which means you do not need it to live, is part of most plant based foods. But there are different kinds of fiber. Let’s break it down.
Types of Fiber
There are 2 kinds of fiber. First is soluble fiber. That means your body can break it down. It dissolves in your body and used in your blood stream. This kind of fiber is found in foods like rolled or steel cut oats. Foods like beans, legumes, certain fruits and vegetables. These foods are plant based items.
When you eat foods rich with soluble fiber you help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat. Our body produces cholesterol and you eat it. Your body need cholesterol for hormone production. But like anything, too much cholesterol is harmful to your heart. By eating more soluble fiber it can help to reduce cholesterol levels if you have them a bit high. Your LDL levels specifically can be lowered by increasing more soluble fiber into your diet. This is the cholesterol you want to lower.
Insoluble fiber is fiber that you can’t digest. This kind of fiber is also found in plants. It is in foods like: whole grains, kidney beans, bran, fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber passes right through the digestive system. This kind of fiber is good for those that have trouble moving their bowels, digestive troubles, water retention, or bloating. Insoluble fiber cleans the digestive tract out.
How Does Fiber Help with Weight loss
When you eat foods rich with fiber you begin to break it down by chewing. As it passes through the digestive system in the stomach, fiber expands in the stomach. Your stomach is like a ballon. It shrinks and expands. When it expands with food, liquid, and fiber a hormone (leptin, which is produced in the fat cells) signals to your brain that you are full. Fiber doesn’t contain really any calories. It is a by product of the food or ingredient you are eating. So that fiber hits the stomach and expands the stomach. When it expands with a balanced meal and more fiber you recognize you are full.
The fiber after being in the stomach passes through the small and large intestine, which if it is insoluble fiber will help to clean you out. This is a good thing, because the more regular you are and the more fiber you eat the healthier your digestive system is. The healthier your digestive system is the more weight you can lose.
Since fiber expands in your stomach this helps with weight loss because it can help to reduce your portion size. Meaning you tend to eat less, but feel satisfied to due an increase in fiber in your diet. That is why when you eat refined carbohydrates like white pasta, white bread, or white rice you are hungry shortly after. That is because those foods do not contain any fiber. Foods without fiber (excluding proteins and fat) are digested quickly and do not expand the stomach. Fiber rich foods take longer to digest which helps to keep you fuller longer and you tend to snack or mindless eat much less.
Simple Fiber “Tricks”
There are simple things you can do to increase your fiber intake, like:
-An easy way to get more fiber into your diet is to swap the pasta for spaghetti squash, or go 50/50 whole wheat pasta and spaghetti squash.
-Add spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard to any soup or stew. There are plenty of ground turkey, beef, chicken, or pork recipes that you can add in a few handfuls of leafy greens to the recipe and add in fiber.
-Swap the sugary cereal or less sugary cereal for bran or flax bran combo. There is nothing to love about the nutrients in sugary cereal. But sometimes you want a bowl of cereal for breakfast and that’s okay. You will do your body some serious good if you make this simple fiber swap.
-Swap the jelly or jam for real fruit. Even though jam is delicious, smashing fresh fruit instead of jam will increase your fiber and even reduce a blood sugar spike.
-Add legumes or beans to your salad.
This Spaghetti Squash Baked recipe is a great way to increase both soluble and insoluble fiber for an easy weeknight meal.
Baked Roasted Tomato and Sausage Spaghetti Squash
- 1 medium-large Spaghetti Squash
- 2 TBLS Olive Oil
Roasted Tomato Sausage Filling
- 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
- 2-4 links Chicken Sausage or Pork Sausage sliced or casing removed (your choice)
- 1/2 Yellow Onion minced
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 cup Puree Tomato Sauce or Your Favorite Marinara
- 2 cups Spinach
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- 1/3 cup Fresh Mozzarella or 2-3 slices of Mozzarella
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 TBLS Olive Oil
- To roast the spaghetti squash. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Poke some holes in the spaghetti squash. Roast for 40-45 minutes.
- While the spaghetti squash is roasting prepare the roasted tomato and sausage filling.
- Begin first while the spaghetti squash is roasting, roast the whole cherry tomatoes in a separate pan. Toss with 1 TBLS olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for 15 minutes.
- In a skillet heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes. Once the onions and garlic have cooked add the sausage. Keep the heat at medium and stir occasionally. Let this cook for 5-8 minutes.
- Once the tomatoes have roasted, carefully remove them from the oven. Add the roasted tomatoes to the saute pan with the sausage. Stir gently and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if the sauce is not saucey enough. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes on medium-low or low (a simmer). Once this has cooked turn the heat off. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
- When the spaghetti squash has cooked carefully remove it from the oven. It will be very hot with a lot of steam. Cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise so you have 2 halves. Carefully scoop out all the seeds and the stringy strands. Using a fork, fork the "spaghetti" pieces.
- Evenly scoop the roasted tomato and sausage filling into the the spaghetti squash. Top with cheese and place it back into the oven for the cheese to melt. This should only take about 5 minutes. If you want you can also broil the cheese for 1-2 minutes on high broil. Keep an eye on it so that cheese doesn't burn. Once the cheese has melted, remove it from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil and enjoy!