Fiber, the Secret Partner for Weight Loss

by : Betsy Canevari

Fiber is an excellent addition to any diet and adds a great deal of benefits. In addition, fiber offers an array of health benefits from lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes to reducing certain types of cancer and yes, even weight loss.

Dietary fiber (also known as roughage or bulk) includes all parts of fruits, vegetables, and grains that your body can't digest or absorb. Fiber is often classified into two categories: those that don't dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber).

&bull Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that increases the regularity of material (fat, digested meat, and toxins) through your digestive system. So for those that struggle with constipation and irregularity, eating insoluble fiber can aid in some relief. Insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat flour, nuts, wheat bran, and many vegetables.

&bull Soluble fiber absorbs water in the intestines and mixes the food into a gel-like material which slows the rate of glucose digestion. Soluble fiber aids in lowering cholesterol and glucose levels because it slows the passage of food through the digestive system thus affecting absorption rates. Soluble fiber can be found in peas, beans, oats, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

As mentioned earlier, fiber has been shown to help with weight loss. Some research shows that weight loss from fiber is contributed strictly to the fact that high-fiber foods generally require more chewing time (such as when you're eating an apple), which gives the body time to signal when you are no longer hungry. Research also shows fiber stays in the stomach longer, absorbs water, swells, and thereby makes the body feel "full". A high-fiber diet also tends to make a meal seem larger and linger longer, so you stay fuller for longer periods of time. And if you eat high-fiber goods together with high-fat foods you can actually decrease the absorption of fat. So increase your daily fiber and you'll absorb fewer calories!

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

To receive the full benefits of dietary fiber, adults (on the average) should eat between 21-38 grams of fiber each day. To calculate how much fiber children should be eating on a daily basis, simply take the age of the child and add five. The sum of those numbers will be the amount of daily fiber required. For example, a five-year-old would need 10 grams of fiber a day.
In general, when looking for the best sources of fiber keep in mind that a high-fiber food offers at least 5 grams of fiber per serving or more. Those that are a good source of fiber have at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving.

So What Are Your Best Sources of Fiber?

Your best option is to choose whole-grain products, raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, and dried beans and peas. Refined or processed foods (white bread, pasta, fruit juices, and non-whole-grain cereals) are lower in fiber content because the grain-refining process actually removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, thereby lowering the fiber content. Fiber content can also be lowered if you remove the skin from fruits and vegetables.

If you are watching your weight, eating the whole fruit (with the skin) is much healthier than drinking the juice of the fruit. A cup of apple juice contains around 115 calories with minimal nutrition while a medium-size apple has only 80 calories and is loaded with nutrients. Plus, when you eat the whole fruit you receive the filling effect that fiber has to offer, so you tend to eat less! If you drink juice, be sure to drink fruit juice with nectar (which contains pulp) rather than plain juice which contains less fiber.

Healthy Alternatives

Although there is a variety of fiber options available on the market, studies have shown that it is better to get your fiber from food rather than from pills. This is because fiber in pills may not work the same way biologically as fiber found in food. For fiber to do its job, it needs to be eaten in the company of other foods and with lots of fluids. Therefore, it may be wise to avoid taking fiber pills as a supplement.

But if you are like most people and do not eat your daily recommended amounts of fiber, you may want to look to a fiber shake to help supplement some of your daily fiber intake. While a shake is not to replace your daily allotment, when combined with protein, it can act as a nice meal replacement. Shakes have been gaining a lot of attention and support because of their ease and convenience. They only takes minutes to make and you can have your shake on the go for breakfast or lunch without having hunger pains between meals!

Again, there are many options available, so be sure to do your homework. Look for fiber shakes that include a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber from fruits and grains. Also check the label to see if it's low in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. Unfortunately, you may drink a shake that is not only high in fiber, but fat and calories as well.

In closing, as you begin to incorporate fiber into your diet, remember to have a well balanced diet that includes soluble and insoluble sources of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Also be sure to ease your way into eating your recommended daily fiber. If you overload your system with fiber, your body will tell you! Start by introducing 5 grams a week into your diet and your body will have time adjust. Also spread your fiber intake throughout the day and be sure to drink lots of water. For fiber to do an adequate job there needs to be an ample amount of water for it to absorb. So be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day!

To Your Health!