We all know that we should eat more fiber in order to be healthy and regular, but is fiber good for weight loss? In brief, yes: evidence indicates that those who eat the right amount of fiber have a better chance of losing weight than those who don’t eat the recommended daily amount.
But not all fiber is the same and there are certain types that are better for weight loss. We asked sports dietitians and doctors for their guidance on how to make sure you’re eating enough of the stuff – and to explain exactly how it can influence weight loss.
Looking for more advice on weight loss? Read up on how to achieve a calorie deficit, or scroll through our round-up of the best exercise machines to lose weight.
Is fiber good for weight loss?
Fiber can actively help with weight loss, as it slows down your digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer. Karine Patel, a sports dietitian, explains: “There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. The insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, whereas the soluble fiber, particularly the viscous fiber, can contribute to weight loss.”
When mixed with water, soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance, filling up space in your intestine and slowing down the emptying of your stomach. This process delays digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer.
There’s plenty of evidence to show that fiber plays an important role in weight loss, too. A randomized controlled trial reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that a diet high in fiber promoted successful weight loss in adults at high risk of type-two diabetes. After one year, participants who consumed high-fiber carbohydrates and reduced their intake of saturated fat saw a decrease in the number on the scales, leaving them in a better position with their diabetes risk than before the trial.
How else does fiber contribute to healthy weight loss?
Registered dietitian Marine Melamed explains that fiber isn’t digested like normal carbohydrates. As the body doesn’t absorb it, fiber doesn’t raise glucose levels as swiftly as other carbs, so fiber-rich foods don’t lead to those dreaded sugar spikes. This is important, as the downturn from a sugar spike can cause feelings of fatigue and hunger – so avoiding them is a good strategy if you’re watching your weight.
Soluble fiber has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels, as it combines with the substance in the small intestine and therefore reduces the amount that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
In Melamed’s own words: “Fiber grabs onto fats, including cholesterol, in the small intestines so that it’s excreted instead of absorbed into the bloodstream, which means that over time, fiber can help lower cholesterol levels.”
Clare Bailey, a medical doctor and representative for The Fast 800, says that there are further benefits too: “Fiber, which mostly comes from foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils in your diet is now increasingly recognised to be essential to our health.
“In addition to helping prevent constipation, fiber also feeds those all-important bacteria and other microbes in the gut microbiome. These microbes process the fiber to produce a range of health promoting substances, including those that support our immunity, produce important vitamins and even boost your mood.”
How much fiber should you eat everyday
The USDA recommends consuming 25g of fiber per day for women and 38g for men. However, an article in the Journal of Nutrition states that many American adults and children do not eat enough fiber, with >90% falling short of meeting their daily fiber recommendations.
If you want more fiber in your diet, you should focus on increasing the number of fruit and veg you’re eating.
Patel also recommends trying her top high-fiber foods: “Wholemeal bread, oatmeal, bran cereals, quinoa, sweet potatoes, most fruits and vegetables – broccoli, berries, asparagus, apples, avocado, and artichoke – beans and pulses – lentils, black beans, red kidney, beans – and nuts and seeds.”
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