A low-carb diet is one of the most effective ways to improve health and lose weight. Not all low-carb diets are the same, however, and one often unintentional outcome of decreasing carbohydrates can be too little fiber.
While eating lots of good fat and protein is central to limiting carbs, your body still needs healthy fiber from plant foods to function at its best.
Studies show eating a high-fiber diet decreases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and overall mortality. Unfortunately, even adults who aren’t limiting their carbs only eat about 15 grams of fiber each day. This is far short of the amount required for good health.
Low-carb diets can be an excellent source of quality fiber. It all comes down to choosing the best high-fiber plant foods that won’t disrupt your carbohydrate balance. Armed with a bit of information, it’s easy to fit enough fiber into your daily meal plan.
Here’s what you need to know to achieve optimal fiber intake.
The role of fiber in a low carb diet
Fiber is a component of food that passes through the body without being broken down or digested. Because fibers remain intact as they move through the digestive tract, they help remove waste and maintain the health of the intestines.
Interestingly, all fibers are carbohydrates. But, since they are indigestible, they don’t count towards total carbs and do not raise blood glucose.
Eating fiber at meals can stabilize blood glucose, preventing the carbohydrates you do eat from spiking your blood sugar. Fiber helps you feel full faster, making you less likely to overeat. Fiber also provides bulk to stools and promotes regularity and optimal stool consistency.
But, one of the most critical functions of fiber is as a prebiotic.
What is prebiotic fiber, and how does it work?
Your digestive tract is host to an amazing colony of bacteria called the microbiome. Prebiotics are specific types of fiber that are fermented by the microbiome and provide these bacteria with necessary nutrients. Consuming high-fiber foods that include prebiotics promotes the growth of good microorganisms which carry out vital functions in the body.
A healthy microbiome may even aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.
Some common food sources of prebiotics include:
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Chicory root fiber
- Dandelion greens
On a low-carb diet, chicory root fiber is an excellent prebiotic source. It’s a common ingredient in low-carb foods due to its sweet taste and zero-net-carbs. Studies suggest it may aid in blood sugar control and weight loss in part due to its action as a prebiotic fiber.
Eating More Fiber Without More Carbs
Dietary fibers are found predominantly in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
In addition to fiber, these foods tend to be high in carbohydrates and are often limited when you eat low carb. But, a diet without plant foods would be bleak indeed, and thankfully, many nutritious fiber-rich foods can fit in your eating plan.
The average adult requires about 30 grams of fiber each day. On a low carb diet, most of your fiber should come from vegetables as they are not only nutrient power-houses but also low in calories and carbs.
The Best Low-Carb Vegetables
When it comes to fiber, you want to get the most bang for your buck. How you prepare a vegetable can influence how much you should eat. For example, it’s ok to eat as much raw spinach as you want, but you will need to monitor your portion size if cooked.
Here are some vegetables you can eat raw in unlimited quantities on a low carb diet:
- Salad greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Peeled cucumber
- Bok choy
These vegetables are low in natural sugar but high in fiber, with anywhere from 2 to 5 grams per 1 cup serving.
Other low-carb vegetables that can boost your fiber intake, but may need to be portioned include:
- Bell peppers
The exact amount and types of vegetables that fit in your eating plan will vary depending on your weight loss goal and stage of the ShiftSetGo program you’re currently on.
Tips To Eat More Low-Carb Fiber
Have a daily salad. Using raw lettuce as your base will automatically give you a fiber boost. If you choose two to three additional high fiber/low carb veggies, you could consume almost half the fiber you need with one meal.
Mix veggies in your morning eggs. Add diced tomatoes to your omelet or add a scoop of sauerkraut on top. There are endless delicious combinations.
Sneak in some flax. Flaxseed and flax meal are pretty much pure, all-natural fiber. You can add them to a smoothie or sprinkle them on a salad. Plus, there are lots of tasty low-carb baked goods that incorporate flax if your diet plan allows.
Don’t forget the berries. While many fruits are limited in some stages of a low-carb diet, berries are often encouraged in small quantities. A half-cup of blackberries or raspberries contains 4 grams of fiber.
Make chicory root coffee or tea. Chicory root fiber has a rich, earthy taste and can be added to your coffee or used to make a caffeine-free latte alternative. It also makes a simple tea when blended with hot water and cinnamon. It’s an easy way to get a boost of prebiotic fiber!
Avocados are your best friend. One avocado contains a whopping 13g of fiber. Add some to your salad, smoothie, snack, or wrap. Note: avocados are not allowed on Stage 1 of the ShiftSetGo program.
Keep roasted low-carb veggies on hand. One easy way to make sure you get the fiber you need is to roast a large tray of veggies once a week. Think broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, Jerusalem artichoke, and eggplant. With a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, you will have a tasty side dish packed with plant fibers ready to go.
Snack on raw veggies.
- Sliced cucumber with cream cheese and herbs on top
- Celery sticks dipped in almond butter
- Caprese salad with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese
- Sliced peppers dipped in guacamole
- Mushroom caps stuffed with cheese or sausage
A Healthy Low Carb Diet Is Fiber-full
A low-carb diet shouldn’t sacrifice the essentials of good eating. By being mindful and intentional with your food choices, you can easily get all the fiber your body needs.
Whether you’re losing or maintaining weight, high-fiber plant foods provide a host of necessary nutrients that support long-term health and wellness. Not to mention the fact that they’re also delicious and satisfying. Plant foods add variety and color to your plate alongside all their nutritional goodness.
Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding fiber in an effort to reduce carbs. A balanced diet that includes the right kinds of high-fiber plant foods will allow you to reach your weight loss goals and improve your overall health.