Fiber is a secret weapon in managing weight, as well as preventing certain diseases and keeping our digestive tracts “on track.” The consensus is that we all need more fiber in our diets.
But which fiber-rich foods are best? What’s the ideal amount of fiber for weight loss? And while we’re at it, what is fiber?
Here are five facts to help you take advantage of the benefits (and avoid the drawbacks — you know what I’m talking about) of consuming more dietary fiber.
Fiber Fact #1 – Fiber is the Indigestible Portion of Food
Dietary fiber is not digested. It’s the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. Indeed, the magic of fiber for weight loss and health comes not from absorbing it, but from getting rid of it — and what it does on its way out.
Here’s the short Wikipedia explanation: soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows the movement of food through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water; it absorbs water, and speeds up the movement of food through the digestive system.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber can be found in a variety of foods. Both promote “regularity” and both change how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed by the body, which brings us to our weight loss benefits…
Fiber Fact #2 – Fiber Helps Prevent Obesity and Diabetes
Fiber helps us achieve our ideal shape by mitigating several diseases connected to our ability to maintain a healthy weight. It can slow the absorption of sugar, thus controlling blood sugar levels and possibly even reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It may also lower bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Not only does fiber speed up or slow down the way the body absorbs nutrients, it also slows the pace of how we eat, which has additional weight loss benefits. Because high-fiber foods are denser, we tend to eat more slowly, making us less likely to overeat. And since we feel fuller, we consume fewer calories overall (plus high-fiber foods tend to be low-calorie). This is why fiber is a key ingredient in meal replacement shakes.
Fiber Fact #3 – You Don’t Need to Stock Up on Fiber One Cereal
Fear not: your diet doesn’t need to accommodate three servings of bran cereal a day. In order to load up on fiber, you just need to load up on fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains (which are the best foods to be eating for weight loss anyway!).
Mike Roussell, PhD, founder of Naked Nutrition, says fiber content is high in all kinds of foods, from fruits (raspberries, apples, avocados) to vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts) to oatmeal, lentils, chia seeds and flaxseed. Roussell tweeted this week: “Only 5% of Americans eat 15g of fiber per 1,000 calories.”
Mayo Clinic recommends 30-38 grams of fiber for men and 21-25 grams for women each day, so don’t hesitate to add extra fiber foods to your protein shakes. (Just read fiber fact #5 first.)
Fruit has many benefits, but it’s high in sugar. The fiber content in whole fruit helps the body process all that sugar, as mentioned above.
But when oranges are reduced to a glass of pulp-free Minute Maid, you’ve got 24 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fiber to help balance it out. As well as potentially spiking your blood sugar, you’re losing out on the fullness benefits, so chances are good that a glass of juice will get swigged in addition to a full meal’s worth of calories. Go for whole fruit, or at least fresh-squeezed juice, whenever possible.
Fiber Fact #5 – If You Double Your Fiber Intake Overnight, You’ll Regret It
You might recall my commitment to drastically increase my veggie consumption earlier this year. It was a success — except for the “drastic” part. Violet Beauregarde, the girl-turned-human-blueberry from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, comes to mind.
Fiber is notorious for causing gas and bloating if your digestive system isn’t used to it. In order to let the body adjust, you’ll want to increase your fiber intake steadily and drink lots of water to avoid constipation. A high fiber diet is a good thing, and Americans are being urged to eat more fiber, but baby steps will ease the transition.
This fiber consumption wisdom is especially helpful if you’ve just started using daily meal replacement shakes for weight loss. Start slowly and drink lots of water. When you’re ready to up the ante, try these 7 ways to make your meal replacement shake even healthier!
Following these 5 things about fiber for weight loss will help your body achieve a more ideal weight and leave you feeling healthier, happier, and full of energy! Remember, though, moderation in the beginning…