The Weird, Gut-Healing Ingredient This Nutritionist Puts In Her Smoothies Daily
As a holistic nutritionist, the one word I hear frequently from clients is "cleanse." While there are definite benefits to giving our bodies a little detox from time to time, the best type of cleanse is ongoing. More often than not, cleanses seem to be inspired after a weekend of bottomless mimosas, a decadent vacation, or trips to all-you-can-eat buffets. But, with my clients, I've found the best path is to continually detox your body through a diet rich in fiber.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber1 is known commonly as "roughage," and you can find it in veggies and whole grains. Due to its dense matter, it can't be broken down in the gut. Therefore, it continues on its path, relieving constipation and helping with regularity. Soluble fiber1, which you can find in nuts, seeds, lentils, and some veggies and fruits, binds to cholesterol and sugar, slowing their absorption into the blood. Even more exciting is its ability to help boost "good" bacteria in the gut, making it a perfect prebiotic to help keep your microbiome thriving. Both are important to consume regularly.
Sadly, most Americans are grossly deficient in fiber2. Luckily, a morning smoothie rich in fibrous fruits and vegetables can be a perfect remedy to get your daily burst of gut-boosting fiber. Another tool I employ to take the fiber in my smoothies to the next level? Acacia fiber.
Acacia fiber, also known as acacia gum, is made from the sap of a tree that is indigenous to Africa. The sap is packed with soluble fiber, and it offers a bevy of other health benefits, like healing wounds,3 promoting oral health, and soothing coughs and sore throats.
Neutral in taste, acacia fiber can be easily added to a smoothie, soup, or dressing without altering the taste or texture (unlike psyllium husk, a more commonly used fiber supplement with a sawdust-like texture). I love adding acacia powder to a smoothie with raw cacao, nut butter, and cinnamon, or to homemade salad dressings to give my veggies an extra boost of fiber. You can find acacia fiber at your local health food market or purchase it online. Look for a brand that's GMO-free and organic.
These are the five reasons I love acacia fiber:
1. Acacia fiber is generally gentle on your stomach.
2. Acacia fiber can relieve constipation.
Constipation can be very uncomfortable and prevent your body from expelling toxins. By adding acacia fiber to your morning smoothie, you are getting an extra boost of soluble fiber. This aids in cleansing your body naturally,5 as opposed to opting for aggressive, irritating laxatives. The beneficial prebiotics6 inulin and oligofructose, found in soluble fiber, produce gases that fertilize the healthy bacteria that live in the lower gut. When consumed with insoluble fibers that are found in many morning smoothies—like kale, flax, or raspberries—you create the perfect cocktail of ingredients to keep your body feeling vibrant.
3. Acacia fiber can help calm IBS symptoms.
IBS sufferers often experience bloating, gas, and painful cramps. In a 2012 study7 conducted in South Korea, a total of 130 patients were recruited to test the therapeutic abilities of acacia fiber and yogurt. The researchers found that, after eight weeks, participants experienced fewer IBS symptoms simply by adding this gentle fiber to their diet.
4. Acacia fiber may promote weight loss.
Acacia fiber is a source of soluble fiber. Soluble fibers make people feel full, which helps keep them from overeating and gaining weight. According to a 2015 study2, "[H]igh levels of dietary fiber consumption is associated with a 30 percent reduction in the risk of gaining weight or developing obesity.” That's why it's better to eat a meal rich in fiber rather than drink a cold-pressed juice, which lacks fiber—that fiber helps keep you feeling fuller longer and provides sustained energy.
5. Acacia fiber improves gut health.
Gut health is essential when it comes to being your most vibrant, healthy self. Known as your second brain, the gut can affect your mood, memory, immune system, and digestion. The gut can be nourished by feeding it a diet rich in fiber—and not eating enough can lead to a die-off of the diverse microbiome that you need to have your gut flourish.
You can make a perfect smoothie every time, no recipe necessary. Here's how.
Alexandra Catalano, based in Van Nuys, California, is a holistic nutritionist, author, TEDx speaker, healthy lifestyle expert, and creator of the popular lifestyle brand Eat Cute. She received her bachelor's in music and communication from the University of Southern California and her Health Coach certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Traveling the country, Catalano lectures at colleges and corporate events, providing nutritional counseling, meal plans, cooking demonstrations, and cleanse programs. She has appeared on the Hallmark Channel's Home and Family, FOX Good Day LA, Lifetime Network's Supermarket Superstar, WGN Chicago News, The CW, San Diego Living, Comedy Central, and The Elite Daily Show. She has written health articles for publications like Oxygen, Muscle & Fitness, FOX News magazine, Brit Co., Paleo magazine, and more.