Two types of fiber exist: Soluble fiber dissolves in water; insoluble fiber does not.
Soluble fiber becomes a gel like substance during digestion. Insoluble fiber remains intact and helps clear the digestive tract of wastes and adds bulk to stools.
Fiber supports healthy digestion and elimination processes. Health professionals recommend consuming at least 20 grams of fiber daily.
The ideal recommendation given by The Institute of Medicine suggests:
- Men 50 years and under –> 38 grams
- Women 50 years and under–> 25 grams
- Men 51 years and older–> 30 grams
- Women 51 years and older–> 21 grams
The sole source of fiber in a person’s diet are carbohydrates. Whole foods, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, unrefined grains and nuts, all provide fiber. Fiber supplements are derived from these sources. This poses a challenge to people following a low carb diet.
Low-Carb Diets and Digestion
Aside from sugar cravings and missing favorite treats, many low-carb dieters struggle with digestive difficulties. They may experience diarrhea and or constipation due to the lack of fiber in their meal plans. As they actively exclude the majority of carbohydrate food sources from their diet, they neglect to ensure the inclusion of high fiber carbohydrates and suffer for it.
The only way to correct this issue is to find the appropriate level of carbohydrate consumption for each dieter. It varies. While there are general recommendations, a person on a low-carb weight loss plan will only want to include the amount of high fiber carbohydrates necessary to end their digestion problems.
Low Carb Count High Fiber Foods
When planning which carbohydrates to include in their meal plan, low-carb dieters need to select foods with the lowest, net carb value. Net carbohydrate values are determined by subtracting the number of sugar grams and fiber grams from the total grams of carbohydrates in a food item. The idea is to limit the healthy carbs eaten to those with the least amount of impact on blood sugar levels.
Recommended foods include:
- Swiss Chard
- Spaghetti Squash
When in doubt, choose green leafy vegetables and fruits with high fiber content.
Low-Carb Diets and Metabolism
Unrefined, whole food carbohydrates also supply the body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for good health. The nutrients they supply support cellular regeneration and immune function. They also support healthy weight loss; without them the body may determine it’s starving and slow the metabolism which prevents weight loss. The body will use the food it receives more efficiently and store any excess as fat.
Glucose Deficits and Gluconeogenesis
The body uses glucose for most energy needs. It’s part of the reason low-carb diets works so well. When the body is deprived of carbohydrates to break down into glucose, it uses alternative energy sources like fat.
However, glucose is the only readily available energy source for the brain; in emergencies, it can also use ketones produced by the breakdown of fat. Glucose also supports many functions in the body. If the levels of glucose in the bloodstream become dangerously low, the body will convert other available metabolic factors into glucose.
Gluconeogenesis is one example of this. During gluconeogenesis, amino acids are converted into glucose. The liver is the primary organ for this process, but the kidneys are capable of performing this function as well.
When carbohydrates are consumed, some are stored on the liver as glycogen. If the glycogen available in the liver is exhausted, the body turns to the muscles for protein, amino acids to convert into glucose. Gluconeogenesis is for survival and not a desirable state for weight loss.
While low-carb diets work in the short term, following them long term can be difficult. This becomes especially true if a dieter does not effectively manage their carbohydrate and fiber intake. The severe curtailment of carbohydrates actively interferes with the acquisition of fuel and waste elimination, two very important and intertwined series of bodily functions.
A successful low-carb diet includes:
- Healthy low-carb sources of fiber
- A balanced ratio of nutrient dense carbohydrates to fat and protein in order to maintain energy, metabolic stability and proper digestion