Fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, is the most misunderstood and underutilized tool in our nutritional tool belt. The common belief is fiber is important for our bowels and little else. Wrong! Fiber not only prevents constipation, but also reduces your risks of colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. One interesting fact about fiber you may not have heard is it helps maintain an ideal body weight.
The Fiber and Weight Loss Link
It is very clear that fiber is a big deal! Not just for your bowels, but also for your metabolism.
Five Important Ways Fiber and Weight Loss are Linked:
1) When people choose how much they eat, a higher dietary fiber appears to limit total food intake, which is linked to a healthy weight.
2) High fiber foods tend to be less "energy-dense," so you consume fewer calories for the same quantity of food.
3) High fiber foods often require more time to chew, giving your body more time to receive its satiety signal.
4) Fiber moves the food you've eaten through the intestinal tract faster, generating the satiety signal sooner.
5) Fiber impacts the types of "bugs" in the gut microbiome. Additional fiber creates a shift in the ratio of gut bacterial populations toward more Bacteroidetes (associated with being lean) and fewer Firmicutes (associated with overweight and obesity).
It is really important to note, all five of these benefits do not last when a person stops eating a higher fiber diet and returns to their normal diet.
Are You Eating Enough Fiber?
Most Americans aren’t eating enough fiber with the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber per day! According to the Institute of Medicine, the daily fiber recommendations are as follows:
Men over 50: 30 grams
Men under 50: 38 grams
Women over 50: 21 grams
Women under 50: 25 grams
What Foods Contain Fiber?
Most people get their fiber (soluble and insoluble) from vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, and whole grains (oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, etc.).
whole grains, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, fruit, and root vegetable skins
It's also possible to get fiber from supplements. The amount of fiber in a fiber supplement varies from brand to brand but usually ranges from 6-10 grams per serving. With that said, a fiber supplement can be used as a way to top off your fiber intake in order to meet the daily recommendation.
Tips to Add More Fiber to Your Diet
1. Read labels and choose foods with at least a few grams of fiber per serving. A good source of fiber has 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving. An excellent source has 5 grams or more per serving.
2. Choose whole-grain bread with at least 2-3 grams of fiber per slice for sandwiches.
3. Choose whole fruit over juice. Whole fruit can have as much as twice the amount of fiber as a glass of juice.
4. Toss beans into your soups, stews, egg dishes, salads, chili, and Mexican dishes. Substitute beans for all of the meat in at least one vegetarian meal per week.
5. Experiment with international cuisines (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and beans in main dishes.
6. Snack on raw vegetables with bean dip or hummus.
Bottom Line: Eat your favorite high fiber foods every day because what you eat does drastically affect the bacteria quality in your gut. Increase your fiber intake if you want a healthier gut and hope to lose weight.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Holscher HD et al. Fiber supplementation influences phylogenetic structure and functional capacity of the human intestinal microbiome: follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. Nov 12, 2014.