If your goal is to lose body fat, increasing your fiber intake can help in many ways. Firstly, high fiber foods has been known to lower your appetite by lowering the insulin levels in your bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. Secondly, the body uses more energy (and burns more calories) to process and absorb high-fiber foods. That is one reason why fiber plays such a big role in the so-called negative calorie diets. Thirdly, high fiber foods are filling but are low in fat. Some are even fat free! That way you feel satisfied but still keep well within your prescribed calorie intake.
Today’s typical diets don’t have much fiber, since much of the natural fiber content in fruits and vegetables are destroyed in the food refining process. Most adults consume less than 20 grams of fiber per day. This is approximately 50% of the recommended amount of dietary fiber for good health, so it is certainly one aspect of healthy eating that needs some attention.
- What is fiber? Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods that contain cellulose or cellulose derivatives. They can’t be broken down by the body because we don’t have the proper digestive enzymes. There are two types of fiber, water-soluble and water-insoluble, with unique and separate benefits associated with each.
- Water soluble Fiber. This can be found in fruits, vegetables, oat bran, seeds, soybeans, peas. It plays an important role in regulating blood lipid levels (cholesterol and blood fats or triglycerides) by binding with bile acids and preventing cholesterol and fat from being reabsorbed by the body. It has also been linked to improved glucose tolerance.
- Water insoluble fiber. This can be found in whole wheat, wheat bran and other grains, fruit and vegetable skins. It helps to prevent constipation, and is associated with preventing diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome. Some studies have also shown that it reduces risk for colon cancer.
- Fiber and digestion. Fiber stimulates digestion, which is very important when the diet is otherwise high in animal foods, which contain no fiber and may contain potentially cancerous substances. Fiber helps clean the body of these substances, and reduces your exposure to these dangerous toxins.
- Good sources of Fiber. Fiber can only be found in plant foods that haven’t had the fiber removed or destroyed during processing. Some good sources include whole wheat breads and whole grain cereals like brown rice, amaranth, oats, barley; fruits and vegetables of all types (especially those with edible skins), seeds, berries, dried fruits, and beans of all types.
Pace yourself! Slowly introduce fiber into your system. Increasing the amount too quickly can cause uncomfortable bloating and gas, an unfortunate side effect of the indigestible substances in fiber. The best way to strike a balance is to add high fiber foods in small amounts over a long period of time, building up a tolerance to these foods. Drink plenty of water to help digestion.