Maintaining healthy body weight is very important as it helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers as well. We exercise, join gyms, and try out different diets in the pursuit of losing weight. However, the easiest method of losing weight is to add more fiber to your diet. According to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, eating 30 grams of fiber each day help you lose weight (1). In this article, we will learn about fiber and how it helps in weight loss.
What is fiber?
Fiber, also known as roughage, is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down into sugar molecules. It passes through the intestinal tract intact. Fiber helps in digestion, improves regularity, regulates blood sugar and cholesterol, and helps in weight management. It also reduces the risk of cancer.
All fruits and vegetables have fiber, and it is mainly concentrated in the skin, seeds, and membranes. Women under 50 years should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should take 38 grams of fiber every day to maintain a healthy weight. Fiber can be divided into two categories –
1. Insoluble fiber
Insoluble fiber, such as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin, does not dissolve in water and retains its shape. It is not a source of calories. It speeds up the passage of the food through the digestive tract and makes stools easier to pass. It also adds bulk to your diet and fills your stomach without adding any calories.
2. Soluble fiber
Soluble fiber, like pectin gum, and mucilage, dissolves in water and gastrointestinal fluids. It becomes a gel-like substance, which is digested by bacteria in the large intestine, releasing gasses and a few calories. Soluble fiber also helps to lose weight in several different ways.
Soluble fiber for weight loss
1. Reduces appetite
Soluble fiber is a natural appetite suppressant. It suppresses the hormones that are involved in appetite regulation. Studies show that soluble fiber intake reduces the levels of hunger hormones like ghrelin, which helps reduce appetite (2). It also increases the production of certain hormones like cholecystokinin, GLP-1, and peptide YY, which make you feel full (3). Reduced appetite helps in lowering calorie intake, which then helps in weight loss.
2. Feeds gut bacteria
Over a 100 trillion beneficial gut bacteria live in our lower gut. These bacteria take care of processes like producing vitamins and processing waste. They also help in weight management, brain function, immunity, and blood sugar control.
Like other organisms, gut bacteria need to eat to stay healthy. The gut bacteria feed on soluble fiber and turn it into usable energy. Studies show that prebiotic fiber consumption benefits obesity and associated co-morbidities by improving or normalizing dysbiosis of the gut microbiota (4).
Soluble fiber passes the digestive system unchanged until it reaches the gut bacteria. The gut bacteria digest this fiber and change it into energy. This process of breaking down and digestion of fiber is called fermentation.
Fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids that are known to help reduce belly fat. Short-chain fatty acids increase the rate of fat burning and reduce the rate of fat storage, which helps regulate fat metabolism (5). Several studies show that there is a direct like between short-chain fatty acids and lower risk of weight gain (6, 7).
Best sources of soluble fiber
Oats are a rich source of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which gives it the creamy consistency. The health benefits of beta-glucan include reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels, higher levels of beneficial gut bacteria, and an increased feeling of fullness.
2. Black beans
Black beans have high fiber and protein content. One cup of black beans contains 5 grams of soluble fiber. These beans are also an excellent source for iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc.
One cup of lentils (cooked) contains 15.6 grams of fiber. They also contain polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects.
4. Chia seeds
A one-ounce serving of chia seeds contains 10 grams of soluble fiber. Because of its high soluble fiber content, chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water and becomes gel-like. This process helps increase fullness, slows down the absorption of food, and feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine.
One tablespoon of flaxseed contains three grams of fiber. Of this fiber, 40 percent is soluble, while 60 percent is insoluble. It is also high in omega-3 fatty acids and lignans.
6. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber. A half-cup serving contains 2 grams of fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants, which help lower the risk of chronic diseases.
One cup of barley (cooked) contains 6 grams of fiber. Barley contains soluble fibers like beta-glucans, which form a gel-like substance in the gut and slows down the absorption of nutrients.
One serving of avocado (1/3 of a fruit) provides 4.5 grams of fiber, of which 1.4 grams is soluble. Compared to other sources of fiber, they contain fewer antinutrients like phytate and oxalate.
9. Sweet potatoes
An average-sized sweet potato contains 4 grams of fiber, of which half is soluble. They help increase satiety, which can help in weight loss.
A 100 gram serving of broccoli contains 2.6 grams of fiber, out of which more than half is soluble. It also contains vitamin K, vitamin c, folate, and potassium.
Tips for eating more fiber
- Eat whole grains
- Include more vegetables in your meals.
- Start your day with a healthy high-fiber breakfast cereal
- Snack on fruit
- Popcorn, whole grain crackers, nuts, and dried fruits are excellent high fiber snacks.
- Bake with high fiber flours like coconut flour, soy flour, chickpea flour, and hazelnut flour.
- Add more beans, lentils, and peas to your diet.
- Eat apples, potatoes, and cucumbers with their skin.
Increase your fiber intake gradually. Adding too much fiber to your daily diet too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and cramping. You must also increase your intake of water. Fiber needs a lot of water to work well.
Fiber supplements allow people to get more fiber in their diet if they are not getting enough from their food. These supplements are made from isolating fibers from plants. These supplements provide relief from constipation. They also help in weight management because they help people feel fuller for longer. Some of the best fiber supplements include –
Inulin is a prebiotic fiber. It has no calorific value but is excellent for health. It forms a gelatinous substance in the stomach that increases fullness, slows down digestion, and removes cholesterol as it passes through the digestive tract. According to a study, people who consumed inulin felt happier, had less indigestion, and were less hungry than the people who consumed the placebo (8). Insulin supplements are available in capsule and tablet form. One dose (two tablets) of inulin contains 3.1 grams of fiber per day.
Methylcellulose is a soluble fiber supplement that is made from cellulose. It is non-fermentable and non-allergenic, and you can take it every day. Methylcellulose is not absorbed by the intestinal tract but instead absorbs water to create a softer stool. You can use it to treat constipation, diverticulosis, IBS, and diarrhea.
Methylcellulose does not ferment, so it is less likely than other types of fiber supplements to cause intestinal gas and bloating. It is absorbed by cold water not hot and forms a gel and should be taken 2 hours before or after taking any other medications.
3. Wheat dextrin
Wheat dextrin (Benefiber) contains wheat germ. It can dissolve in both hot and cold water. It contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten, so it is considered gluten-free. It helps improve digestion and stabilizes blood sugar. It may help reduce appetite and cause weight loss but is not recommended as a weight loss product.
Psyllium is made from the seed husks of Plantago ovate plant. It soaks up the water in the gut and makes bowel movement easier. Psyllium is also a prebiotic, so it helps fight infection and reduce inflammation. It contains 70 percent soluble fiber, which helps improve fullness and helps control the amount of food you eat. It is available as a capsule, granules and as a liquid concentrate.
Eating foods rich in fiber can be an effective method of losing weight. Soluble fiber feeds gut bacteria, reduces appetite, and helps to lower belly fat. Some of the best sources of soluble fiber are oats, barley, lentils, black beans, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and Brussels sprouts. To add more fiber to your diet, you must eat more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Snacks like popcorns, whole grain crackers, nuts, and dried fruits are also rich in fiber.
Fiber supplements like psyllium, wheat dextrin, methylcellulose, and inulin allow people to get more fiber in their diet if they are not getting enough from their food. These supplements provide relief from constipation and also help in weight management because they help people feel fuller for longer.