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Fiber Nutrition for Weight Loss and Optimal Health

What is Fiber and How Does it Affect Body Weight?

Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that cannot be digested. It is found in the tough cell walls of plants – fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains – that the body cannot break down. Fiber is not found in animal products.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) recommends women get 25 to 35 grams of fiber in their diet daily, and men, 38 grams, yet most adults in the U.S. get only 9 to 11 grams of fiber per day, less than half of the recommended amount. This is due to our over-reliance on processed foods that have been stripped of fiber.  Lack of fiber in the diet leaves people hungry and more prone to overeating.

Why Fiber Makes Weight Loss Easier:

  • Fiber adds bulk to food without adding calories, so high-fiber foods fill you up without filling you out.

  • Fiber slows digestion and steadies blood sugar levels, which curbs sugar cravings and sustains energy.

  • Fiber boosts metabolism. The human body can’t digest fiber, but it attempts to, burning calories in the process.

  • Fiber swells in the stomach, absorbing calories and fat from other foods in the meal before the body can absorb them.

  • High-fiber foods satisfy hunger because they require more chewing, which prompts the secretion of saliva in the mouth and gastric juices in the stomach that promote satiety by signaling the brain when it is full.

How Does Fiber Work?

Since fiber is the indigestible part of the carbohydrate, it has no calories.  The fiber passes through the digestive tract and exits the body, so there is no reason to count it. Only the carb portion of a food contributes calories, so foods that are high in fiber and low in net carbohydrates (calculated by subtracting a food serving’s dietary fiber from the total carbohydrates) pack the least calories.

Dietary fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble

Soluble fiber swells like a sponge in the stomach giving food a jellylike bulk that makes you feel full. Soluble fiber also binds with calories and fat in the stomach and intestines and pulls them out of the body before they can enter the bloodstream. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, oat bran, apples, oranges, pears, lentils, strawberries, nuts, beans, dried peas, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.

Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, includes the woody or structural parts of plants. Insoluble fiber works like nature’s broom, helping speed the passage of material through the digestive tract, burning calories in the process. Good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, seeds, nuts, zucchini, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, as well as certain fruits, such as apples, as well as raisins, grapes, root vegetables eaten with skin.

Most whole plant foods contain both types of fiber. Eating a variety of fiber-rich foods will provide you with beneficial amounts of both.

Other Ways Fiber Promotes Optimal Health and Wellness

  • More energy: Eating fiber and protein together keeps blood glucose levels steady, providing your body with sustained energy.

  • Flatter stomach: Eating a high-fiber diet helps you have complete and regular bowel movements. Fiber increases stool bulk, which helps prevent constipation, bloating and can offer relief from irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Clearer skin: Fiber soaks up toxins in the blood and eliminates then through the digestive tract instead of your pores, producing brighter, clearer skin. Many fiber-rich fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that help fight aging.

  • Improved sleep: Eating refined carbs late in the day cause your blood sugar level to peak and then crash during sleep, which is why some people get up in the middle of the night. Eating foods rich in fiber helps keep blood sugars steady, which in turn promotes undisturbed rest.

Eat More Fiber and Live Longer!

A groundbreaking study of nearly four hundred thousand people over a ten-year period, conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that those who ate fiber-rich diets lived longest. Fiber was credited with reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, infectious and repertory disease, and some forms of cancer.

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