Adding more fiber to your diet may not top the list of most exciting things to do this weekend, but this is one nutrient that can have a major impact on the way you look, feel, and even how much you weigh. Fiber can be your best friend if you want to lose weight and keep it off. And that’s not all…
What Is Fiber Exactly?
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that, unlike other carbohydrates, can’t be broken down into sugars. Instead, fiber moves through the digestion system and offers many benefits to the body.
There are two varieties of fiber: soluble and insoluble, both of which offer unique health benefits.
Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help reduce belly fat. One study showed that, for every 10-gram increase in fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7%. Visceral fat is the type that accumulates deep within the belly and can wrap around vital organs, which is far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. Soluble fiber has also been shown to strengthen the immune system and fight inflammation associated with obesity-related disease, such as diabetes and heart disease. This water-soluble fiber, which breaks down in the body, can also help regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels and blood cholesterol levels.
Foods with soluble fiber include apples, blueberries, lentils, beans, legumes and oatmeal.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Instead, it moves slowly through the digestive system, absorbing water to provide bulk for the intestinal muscles to work against, promoting regularity and helping to prevent constipation.
Foods with insoluble fiber include brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and whole wheat bread.
The Fiber Diet
Here’s where fiber gets exciting. A diet that’s rich in fiber can help you lose weight healthily. Many recent studies have found that the more fiber intake increases, the more body weight and body fat goes down.
Fiber helps you feel fuller longer. Foods that are high in fiber help reduce hunger that can cause you to want to snack after. People on high-fiber diets generally have a decreased overall food intake. Research suggests that one reason fiber helps keep you feeling full is that it’s broken down by the bacteria in your gut to become a chemical called acetate, which sends out hunger suppressing signals to your brain.
Speaking of bacteria in your gut, the good bacteria that live in your intestinal tract need food to do their job: supporting your immune system and fighting off “bad” bacteria by competing for resources. Guess what these good bacteria like to eat? Insoluble fiber. In addition to supporting digestion and immune health, good bacteria can help you digest and absorb nutrients, and regulate metabolism.
Another reason a high fiber diet may help with weight loss is the fiber-containing foods themselves. Remember that fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrates from plant foods. These plant foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds – are the basis for a low-calorie, low-fat diet. By eating more plant foods, you’re getting more of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support a healthy metabolism and production of hormones. You’ll feel full longer, which should help you to say no to tempting “junk” foods that offer a lot of calories but very little in the way of actual nutrition.
How to Get More Fiber
Ready to start getting more fiber? Take it slow and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent bloating. Here are some easy ways to add more fiber throughout the day.
Eat oatmeal. Oats are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. One of the soluble fibers in oats, beta glucan, has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Top a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries or apple slices for an added dose of soluble fiber, plus a handful of crunchy almonds. Almonds are rich in insoluble fiber and offer a healthy dose of plant-based protein to start your day.
Snack smartly. A slice of sprouted grain toast with a tablespoon of almond butter will provide both soluble and insoluble fiber when you’re in the mood for a snack. If you’re craving something crunchy, raw carrots and snap peas will provide a bit more insoluble fiber.
Up your veggie intake. To add more fiber to your lunch or dinner, pair a small garden salad with a veggie wrap. Pile your garden salad high with tomatoes, carrots and crunchy cucumbers. For a satisfying wrap, layer a tablespoon of hummus on top of a whole-wheat wrap and fill it with sliced bell peppers, zucchini, spinach and pine nuts. The fiber from the vegetables, chickpeas, and wrap will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
By adding more fiber to your diet, you’re on your way to feeling better, losing weight and having better overall health. There’s nothing boring about that!