It's all about the fiberIn December 2015, a study of 427,000 people trying to lose weight shined a bright light on fiber's super-slimming powers. When all the data were in, it focused on those who were most successful, that is, who came within five percent of their target weight. And it asked, simply, why? They consumed fewer carbs? Less sugar? Less fat? No. Compared to the less successful folks, the five-percenters were pretty much the same when it came to amounts of calories, protein, fat, and carbs. There was only one significant difference. They ate 29 percent more fiber. Think about it. Famous brand-name diets micromanage your every bite, every day, with limited success. Meanwhile, you can just eat more beans and other fiber-rich foods with significantly more success. Fiber: the ins and outs Fiber is a carbohydrate, like the starch and sugar that come from plants. However, we can't digest it or break it down into nutrients, like other foods—we lack the specialized enzymes to do the job. If that sounds like a deficiency, it isn't at all. It's the key to fiber's weight management, and other important, powers. Fiber comes in two forms—each with its own special benefits.
It's not just about losing weightAll types of fiber have earned star ratings by helping manage, reverse, or prevent the usual list of terrible health outcomes—cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease, poor sleep, cancer, chronic inflammation, etc. Fiber is also strongly linked to a reduced risk of gall stones, kidney stones, diverticular diseases, and more. It's also a favorite nutrient for the trillions of good bacteria (probiotics) in our gut. Keeping them well fed and fully functional is an absolutely essential—if not the essential—pillar of good health. But don't just rush out and eat a basket full of fiber-rich foods.
Climb the fiber ladder slowlyA nutritionist I respect recommends creating a fiber consumption baseline—an estimate of your grams of fiber consumed per day—then adding an additional 3–5 grams of fiber per day. That's just one extra serving of veggies or one extra piece of fruit. Several online sources give you grams of fiber per ounce of food. When you're averaging 25–35 grams of fiber per day, stay at that level. The average America consumes only 10.5 grams of fiber daily, so be sure to get there slowly. A significant, sudden change in any behavior can have unwanted results. In this case, overloading fiber can cause bloating, constipation, gas, cramping, and all of the above. And let your doctor know your intention. He or she can help you navigate the dietary changes, and it might be an opportunity to also adjust some other dietary behaviors.
- United Nations 2016 International Year of Pulses. http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/en/
- "Types of Fiber and Their Health Benefits." http://www.webmd.com/diet/compare-dietary-fibers
- hello healthy. "How to Eat Like a Successful MyFitnessPal User." http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/eat-like-successful-myfitnesspal-user/
- International Food Information Council. "Fiber Fact Sheet: Bottom Line" http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/6/FINAL%20IFICFndtnFiberFactSheet%2011%2021%2008.pdf
- "What is Fiber and How Does It Work?" http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/822363/what-is-fiber-and-how-does-it-work