Thursday, October 15, 2015

Which Fiber is Better: Psyllium, Flax Seeds or Chia Seeds?

Fiber is a miracle food of sorts.  It has long been viewed as the food that keeps elimination regular.  However, it does much more.  It helps to positively affect the body's intestinal microflora, which is necessary for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic disease.  Further, it helps to reduce the  risk of some of the most common chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  People who ate the most fiber were less likely to die of any disease, a recent study found.

You are probably sold on the fiber.  But what is the best way to get it?  In the past people used cereal grains to meet the necessary fiber quota.  Today, cereal grains are not as good a choice.  Many of the grains in cereals are treated with pesticides and preservatives which make them more processed and less pure.  Ayurveda and other holistic medicines prefer pure, natural food as it is more easily digested and able to be used by the body.  It is also potentially less harmful without the chemicals.  Additionally, many of the high fiber boxed cereals are made from wheat, which many people are allergic to (like celiacs).

A better fiber choice would be gluten free options like psyllium, flax or chia (remember to use organic, natural sources).  These are all 'healthy' options, but in Ayurveda a food is judged on whether it is suited for your body type in determining whether it is healthy.

Ayurveda considers psyllium husk fiber the best lubricating, bulk laxative, and it is soothing to inflamed intestines.  It is, however, a heavy food and may create stagnation and toxins in the digestive tract if it is consumed too often and in large quantities.  Therefore, psyllium should be taken with a digestive stimulant like ginger. It is also more suited for pitta and vata types.

Flax seeds should be ground and stored in the freezer.  They are different from psyllium in that they are lighter and hotter in quality.  This would make them a poor choice for pitta, but better for vata and kapha  They are also good for balancing hormones.

Chia seeds have a heating quality, and are better for vata and kapha types.  They are also very nutritious with protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micro-nutrients.

All fiber should be taken with plenty of water to avoid congesting the digestive tract and causing gas.  Also, Ayurveda is all about balance.  All these fiber choices are good.  They should be consumed mindfully with your body type in mind.  The cooling herb of fennel helps to promote digestion, alleviate gas and reduce cramping.  A pitta type should use generous amounts of fennel with fiber to offset the heating qualities.  The fennel would help vata and kapha too, but they do not need as much as pitta.

It is good to keep in mind that balance means varying foods, so consume all these fibers without favoring one type. One can also get fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

As with any question, the real answer depends on who is asking the question.

Stay healthy & well,