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Health and Fitness News

Fiber, Your Weight-Loss Friend

Reasons you need fiber for weight loss and how to eat more of it.

In case you hadn’t heard, the typical Western diet is lacking in the fiber department. When you eat a lot of processed meat, red meat, packaged foods, fried foods, high-fat dairy, refined grains, and sugar, you’re bound to struggle with weight gain. If you want to fight off the extra pounds and keep a lean and mean physique for years to come, you’ll need to do away with the bad stuff and put some good-old fiber in its place.

What is fiber, why is it so important in your weight-loss journey, and what are some simple ways to include more fiber in your everyday diet? Keep reading to find out.

Two Types

Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods and carbohydrates that isn’t digested by the body. All types of plant foods contain fiber. This means that fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts all have fiber. However, not all types of fiber are the same.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows down the digestion process so your body can absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, dried beans, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries, apples, potatoes, and peas. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and is needed to keep your digestive system moving to prevent constipation. Foods with a high amount of insoluble fiber include whole grains, wheat bran, seeds, and fruit and vegetable skins.

Beneficial for Weight Loss

Besides helping your body absorb nutrients and preventing constipation, high-fiber foods are known to speed weight loss. Since fiber-rich foods slow digestion, when you eat them you feel fuller faster and for longer. This means you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied. The end result is that you eat fewer calories.

Think you can beat the system by eating fiber-free, low-calorie foods? Think again. Because while a piece of white bread may have fewer calories, it won’t fill you up or provide as much lasting energy as a piece of bread made with 100-percent whole grains. So you’ll need more food sooner to maintain your energy levels.

Since soluble fiber slows digestion, it slows the amount of sugar absorbed into the bloodstream. When your blood sugar levels are lower, your insulin levels are also lower. This reduces the amount of fat your body stores.

Soluble fiber is also helpful inside your gut, where trillions of friendly bacteria hang out. While research is still ongoing, it is known that the gut microbiome plays a role in weight management and in the fight against chronic inflammation (which may affect weight gain). Soluble fiber provides nourishment so these friendly bacteria can do their job.

Ways to Eat More Fiber

Now that you know why you need to eat more fiber, don’t plan to change your diet overnight. Too much fiber all at once can cause bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea. For best results, gradually increase the amount of fiber you eat over the course of a few weeks so your gut bacteria have time to adjust to the change. As you add more fiber, increase the amount of water you drink to keep fiber passing through your digestive tract.

To increase the amount of fiber in your diet, try these tips.

1. Choose cereals with a whole grain listed as the first ingredient. Top your cereal with wheat bran or add some to your smoothie.
2. Eat whole-grain bread rather than bagels, muffins, or donuts made with refined white flour. Instead of white rice or pasta made with refined grains, go for brown rice and pasta made with whole-wheat flour.
3. Include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables in your meals each day. Do this by adding beans, lentils, and peas to soups, salads, and tacos.
4. Snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts, popcorn, or whole grain crackers.
5. Go with whole foods. While you may be tempted to get more fiber from a supplement, your body processes fiber best from real food. If you struggle to get enough fiber, talk with your doctor about whether a supplement is right for you.