If There’s A Miracle Nutrient, It’s This One

I’ve ranted many a time to you about how everyone is too focused on nutrients and trying to find the one panacea to eat or eliminate to cure all of our nutritional woes. Sometimes it’s omega-3 fatty acids, sometimes sugar, sometimes protein, sometimes kale, sometimes vitamin blah blah blah. But I maintain that this kind of thinking is mostly a waste of time; if we focus on eating a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we’ll cover the rest of our bases.

BUT even I can’t help but sing the praises of dietary fiber, which I’ve written about before, and the average person could use a huge additional helping of fiber in their diet.

Some people can’t imagine how vegans manage to eat enough protein, but the fact is that no one is deficient in protein. On the other hand, most people are deficient in fiber — but not most vegans, I’d wager.

Fiber does a variety of beautiful things, including:

  • helps lower blood cholesterol
  • helps lower blood sugar
  • swells in the stomach, making you feel satisfied and less likely to overeat
  • facilitates healthy movement through the digestive system

The most miraculous action of fiber in my humble opinion would definitely be the fullness factor. I heard of a weight-loss study recently (can’t for the life of me remember where it came from) in which the only instructions given to participants was to eat a certain amount of fiber every day, and they lost a significant amount of weight because the fiber kept them from overeating.

And if you didn’t already know, you can only get fiber from minimally processed plant foods. (Well, food processors add supplemental fiber to packaged foods, but evidence of benefits comes from consumption of the whole foods.) The higher the fiber content of your diet, the lower the caloric density. Since I started eating a mainly whole-foods, plant-based, and high fiber diet, I actually eat a lot more food in terms of mass and volume, but the same or fewer calories. And anything that lets me eat more is a miracle in my book.

If you feel compelled to look at a specific nutrient as the index of the healthiness of your diet, let it be fiber, for two reasons: one, because fiber itself has many important functions in chronic health, and two, it is probably a good measure of how much of your diet is whole plant foods.

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