A switch to a plant-based diet is a conscious life choice that will have a lasting positive impact on you. The trend has caught on with millions around the world, and more people are migrating towards plant-based eating so as to limit their risks to ailments and how for a more fulfilling life. There could have been several factors that pushed you to this decision, and it is a welcome one.
One of the things that the standard diet often misses out on is fiber. What is it, and what role does it have in allowing you to sail through your plant-based journey? We’ll find an answer to these and more. Read on…
Lacking The Essential
The daily fiber recommendation by major health organizations is pitched at around 25-30 grams. Surprisingly, more than 90% of the world population is not having it! This is a startling statistic that will have far-reaching implications for those who continue to tread down this rocky road.
Fiber is essential for the digestive wellness and for the proper functioning of other health-promoting functions, which include binding and the subsequent removal of excess cholesterol in the body.
If you are a beginner plant-based warrior, then the sudden boost in the fiber intake would have turned your world upside down. Switching from a low fiber diet to a plant-based diet which is rich in fiber can cause uncomfortable and rather pink-faced situations!
Fiber: What You Should Know
Fiber is the part of plant-based foods that the body can’t break down. It basically passes through the entirety of the digestive tract undigested and as a whole. What it does is that it scrubs up the insides of your digestive system clean, allows for an easier bowel movement and helps in flushing out all of the unnecessary carcinogenic substances from your inside.
Fibers Are Of Two Types:
As the name suggests, this does not dissolve into the liquid and serves the purpose of adding bulk into the stool. The resistant starch is grouped in with such fibers and is associated with the feeling of fullness, especially after a plant-based meal.
These are found in legumes, fruits and beans. These often dissolve into liquids and helps in nourishing the essential gut bacteria. This particular fiber pulls in water into the stool and makes it easier for it to pass through your system.
It may seem ironic, but for beginners, taking too much fiber can cause discomfort and makes things worse at first instead of better.
Switching from a standard diet to a fiber-rich one can increase the fiber to double overnight. These can make things difficult for you in the beginning. Here are some of the offenders that you must be careful and limit in the beginning:
- Plant foods that are high in cellulose
- Legumes and beans that are rich with resistant starch and fibers
- Fruits that contain fructose
- Cruciferous vegetables like brussels, cabbage cauliflower and kale that are low-calorie and high in fibers.
Your body is unprepared to breakdown the sugars and the fibers, and the bacteria can be rustled. It will take a week or so for the bacteria to adapt to the feed.
How Do You Deal With The Side Effects?
Most of the foods that you consume in a plant-based are essential which you can’t avoid or ignore. So how do you go about minimizing the risks or unpleasant side effects?
First things first, drink plenty of water. As mentioned earlier in the case of soluble fibers, it pulls in water. This can increase the risk of dehydration and difficulty in passing stool. Either, drink water or just about any fluid like tea, fruit juice or coffee. To further relax your insides, you can drink teas that are brewed with ginger and mint- these provide a cooling effect and help in reducing inflammation due to slow bowel movement.
Stick to cooked foods rather than raw foods, especially if you are transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. Take small steps to increase the fibre intake. Over time you can chalk up bigger portions. If you feel yourself being excessively bloated after a meal, then it is better that you break down your meals. Rather than 3 meals in a day, break it down to 6 that you have in regular intervals with smaller portions. This will allow the digestive system to better work with the food.
Don’t miss out on the healthy fats either. You can include them by adding bean chilli, oatmeal, ground flax or avocado to your recipes. These can help in easing the problems and help in increasing the fiber intake.
The Final Word
The transition needs to be done as slowly and gradually as possible. Don’t go all in one swing, as the chance of you feeling like hell is more. Consult a dietician if you still feel discomfort.