Losing weight is a complicated affair these days. Each and every diet book author differs in their opinion on what we should eat and what we shouldn’t. Just looking at the nutrition aisles at the local bookstores will make your head spin 😮 . While all these books seem different, there is one thing they all have in common. What is that?
Restriction. Restriction. Restriction.
Each and every diet is about restricting something. Sometimes restriction is important, but when you’re over-restricting for no particular health reasons, it sucks the joy out of life.
What if I told you that instead of cutting out so many foods, there is one really simple diet change that could help you lose weight without restriction? It’s not a miracle solution nor is it a solution do be done in isolation, but it will help you in your weight loss journey.
That one simple change is eating more fiber.
So how does fiber help in weight loss?
- Reduces your appetite – Fiber can help you feel fuller faster, so you’re less likely to overeat during a meal. Also since fiber slows down the digestion of food, you’ll feel satiated for much longer [3, 4].
- Keeps your gut bacteria in order – Fiber (specifically prebiotic fibers like those found in chickpeas) helps feed your gut’s good bacteria, which in turn, can help regulate your metabolism and help prevent obesity [5, 6, 7].
- Keeps your calorie intake lower – By eating a diet rich in high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, you may end up eating fewer calories overall. Most natural fiber-rich foods are lower in calories compared to other foods and since you’ll feel more satiated with all the fiber, you won’t overeat as much.
What type of fiber should I eat?
There are two important types of fiber: water-soluble and water insoluble.
- Soluble — This type of fiber can absorb water during digestion. So what does this mean for you? It means that this fiber can slow down the rate at which you digest food. This helps slow down the release of glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream and prevent blood sugar spikes. Soluble fiber can also help you feel satiated.
- Insoluble — This type of fiber remains unchanged during digestion. The main job of this fiber is to add some bulk to your stool and help things move along.
While both types of fiber are important for good health, for losing weight the evidence shows that soluble fiber may do a better job. That is because it reduces appetite better than insoluble fiber . This way you are less likely to overeat!
What are the best sources of soluble fiber?
While you’ll see the words “added fiber” on the labels of all sorts of processed foods, it is best to get your fiber from whole foods like:
- fresh fruits
- whole grains (if you eat grains)
Specific foods rich in soluble fiber include black beans, lima beans, chickpeas, avocado, oranges, pears, Brussels sprouts, oats, etc. For a full list, click here.
Can’t I just eat those fiber granola bars or fiber supplements?
Eating granola bars with lots of added fiber is really not the same thing as eating fresh whole fruits and veggies!
Let me explain.
If you were to eat a fiber-enhanced granola bar like FiberOne  , you would get 9 gram of fiber (not bad!), but you will also get almost two teaspoons of processed sugar along with it and not much in terms of nutrients.
For almost the same amount of fiber, you would need to eat just a little over 1/2 cup of lentils  and you would get a lot more nutrients. Look at the numbers yourself.
Granola bar (1 bar) vs. Lentils (1/2 cup)
140 calories vs. 116 calories
9 grams of fiber vs. 8 grams of fiber
7 grams of sugar vs. 2 grams of sugar
2 grams of protein vs. 9 grams protein
10% calcium vs. 2% calcium
6% iron vs. 19% iron
0% thiamin vs. 11% thiamin
0% folate vs. 45% folate
0% niacin vs. 5% niacin
While the granola bar isn’t that bad, it doesn’t really pack a nutritional punch. If you want to get the most out of your fiber intake, stick to whole foods so you get a wide range of nutrients. Processed foods are rarely as nutrient-dense as whole and unprocessed foods.
How much do you need?
Most of us aren’t getting nearly enough fiber. The average American woman consumes about 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day . That’s just about half of what’s needed to meet the basic recommendation of 25 grams.
Some experts think that the amount of fiber we actually need could be more than that. There is no magic number, so you’ll need to experiment and see what works best for your body. Aiming for 25-38 grams a day  would be a good place to start. Men should aim for more than women.
If you’re planning to switch to a high-fiber diet, remember to do it gradually to give your body time to get used to it!
So go on and add some fiber to your diet – your body will thank you!
Note: If you’re on a fiber-restricted diet due to medical reasons or if you have a digestive disorder, it’s best to speak to a medical professional before you eat more fiber.
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