Can Eating More Fiber Help You Lose Weight?
Fiber is one of those nutrients we hear a lot about, but remains sort of a mystery. You know you need it, but you don’t really know exactly why it’s important or what foods you actually get it from. Today we’re here to put an end to the mystery, and also help you find simple ways to eat more fiber (because it’s true, chances are you’re probably not getting enough).
Also going by the names dietary fiber, roughage, and bulk, fiber is a carbohydrate we get from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. However, it’s not a carbohydrate our bodies can break down and digest. It comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water, and once it gets to your digestive tract, it becomes gelatinous and ferments. Insoluble fiber behaves the opposite, traveling through your digestion and leaving your body pretty much the same way it went in. Foods are usually high in one or the other type of fiber, not usually both.
Why do we need fiber?
You probably mostly relate fiber with having a healthy digestive system. You’re right in doing so, but fiber has a lot more health benefits than just keeping you regular! It keeps your blood cholesterol levels healthy1 and by containing fewer calories and more nutrients keeps you full longer. Soluble fiber keeps your blood glucose and insulin levels normal1, and in particular helps lower levels of bad cholesterol. It also provides “fuel” for the good bacteria in your intestines and makes vitamin B122. Insoluble fiber is what keeps your bowels moving. This not only prevents constipation, but ultimately helps your body more efficiently get rid of waste and toxins2 and greatly reduces your risk of digestive trouble from cancer or other diseases like diverticulitis1.
How much fiber do we need?
The Institute of Medicine set daily recommended fiber intake3 at 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. If you’re over 50, those numbers change to 30 and 21 respectively. At this point, most Americans are barely getting half this recommended amount. The average adult in America only gets 15 grams per day1.
How to eat more fiber
Eating more fiber is really as simple as knowing the best food sources to get it from. These are # of our favorite ways to eat our fiber – take a look and try incorporating a few into your meals every day:
1. Beans. Black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, any kind of bean will do. Pick your favorite kind, and having just one cup will average in the double digits of fiber. For example, one cup of black beans has 15 grams and one cup of navy beans has a whopping 19 grams! Make a conscious effort to add more beans to your weekly meals. Especially going into winter, look up some soup and chili recipes to keep on hand!
2. Berries. In addition to all their other wonderful health benefits, berries – through their tiny seeds – give you lots of fiber. Raspberries and blackberries both average 8 grams of fiber per cup! Add them to your morning shake, top your salad with them, or even get creative in the kitchen using them in some dinner recipes.
3. Whole grains. The less refined your grains are, the better. It’s the refining process that removes much of a grain’s fiber content. A few pantry staples are brown rice at 4 grams per cup (cooked), quinoa at 5 grams per cup (cooked), and oats at 4 grams per ½ cup dry. When shopping, always opt for the whole grain version of anything, from bread to pasta to crackers.
4. Green vegetables. The darker and crunchier, the better! Greens and vegetables are excellent sources of many things, but fiber is one of the highlights. 1 cup of cooked spinach has 4 grams of fiber, 1 cup of cooked kale has 3 grams, 1 cup of broccoli has 5 grams, and Brussels sprouts have a whole 6 grams per cup! Experiment with the vegetables you put on your plate, and opt for ones high in fiber.
5. Fruit. The crowd pleaser, fruit is a great source of fiber. However, when you have the option, always leave the skins on to get the most fiber benefit. Pears have around 6 grams, apples around 4 grams, and ½ cup of dried peaces have 6 grams.
6. Potatoes. Versatile, delicious, and high in fiber. Leave the skins on, and treat yourself to some high fiber mashed potatoes! Russets have about 4 grams per medium potato, red potatoes have about 3 grams, and sweet potatoes have around 4 grams.