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Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and is beneficial to our health in numerous ways, from keeping our digestive system and bowels healthy and reducing the risk of some cancers to protecting against heart disease.
We know that fiber is a necessary part of our diet, but can increasing your fiber intake help you lose weight?
Fiber and weight loss
Studies have shown that a high fiber diet can have an effect on satiety and therefore can help with weight loss. One 2009 study showed that participants who ate whole apples before a meal ate 15% less than those who consumed apple sauce or apple juice, which although they have similar nutritional qualities, are lower in fiber than the apple itself.
Other studies have shown that people who eat a high fiber breakfast tend to weigh less than those who eat less fiber.
Fiber does not add calories, but it does add bulk to foods. If you eat higher fiber foods, you will generally feel a lot fuller than if you eat the same weight of low fiber foods, as fiber delays gastric emptying time and means food takes longer to pass through the digestive system.
Higher fiber foods also tend to have a higher glycemic index as the slower passage through the digestive system means that the release of sugar into the blood stream is slower and subsequently the rise in blood sugar levels is more controlled and stable. This also results in keeping you fuller for longer, fighting hunger and meaning you are likely to eat less, which is obviously beneficial for weight loss.
Dietary fiber also means that food takes longer to chew and physically consume, meaning that your brain has more time to register when you are full, preventing you from overeating.
See also: How much fiber should we eat in a day
Does the type of fiber matter?
There are two main types of dietary fiber, soluble, which is thought to have benefits for heart health and insoluble which keeps the bowels healthy. It is thought that a combination of these two fibers from whole foods is the best option not only for weight loss, but also for general health and wellbeing; although one study did find that hunger and intake throughout the day was reduced further with a breakfast high in insoluble fiber compared to soluble, suggesting that this type may have the more profound effect on satiety.
A good variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts should provide you with all the fiber you need of both types. These foods also tend to be nutritious and are often low in calories, meaning they have added benefits for your health and weight loss.
How to increase your fiber intake
Ideally women should be eating at least 25 grams of fiber per day, whilst mean should aim for 38 grams as a minimum, although higher intake than this will help control hunger further and give the best results for health.
It should be remembered however, that if you increase your fiber intake you should also drink more water as increasing fiber intake without extra fluids can result in constipation. It is also a good idea to increase your fiber intake gradually, rather than all in one go to avoid this issue.
Increasing your fiber intake should not be difficult and can be achieved with a few simple changes or additions to your diet.
- Eat more vegetarian foods and make legumes and vegetables the focus of dishes rather than meat.
- Avoid fruit juices and choose the whole fruit instead. This will not only boost your fiber intake but cut your calories too.
- Choose fruit or vegetable based snacks. Vegetables sticks with a high fiber dip such as hummus make an ideal choice.
- Always choose whole grain bread over white varieties
- Add extra seeds, nuts and grains to your diet as a snack or sprinkled over salads or other dishes, but keep nut portion sizes small as these can be high in calories.
- Eat fruit for dessert
- Make sure every meal is served with some form of non-starchy vegetables and that it makes up the largest portion of the plate.
- Eat vegetable based soups before a meal to help fill you up and consume less calories overall.
- Add legumes or vegetables to meat based dishes to increase the fiber, decrease the calories and save money.
- Choose a high fiber breakfast cereal to start your day and add even more fiber in the form of fruit. You can also add nuts or seeds to cereal for added benefits.
- Choose brown rice and pasta where possible
- If you are still struggling to get enough fiber into your diet, you may wish to choose foods that are enriched with fiber. Although this may not be as beneficial as fiber from whole food sources it is better than a low fiber intake.
References used in this article