Fiber. Truth is, it’s not some magical secret, but it sure is simple.
Fiber is a carbohydrate (gasp), and yes, you might be wondering how any type of carb could be the secret to a healthy weight. Well, while most carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugar molecules, fiber actually goes through the body undigested.
Due to its indigestible nature, fiber keeps you full, stabilizes blood sugar, stimulates proper digestion and elimination, all while lowering your cholesterol and providing a whole slew of other benefits. General recommendations for fiber are from 25 to 35 grams a day, but most Americans barely get 15! In fact, with low carb diets all the rage, most people hardly get fiber at all.
Here’s the trick. You have to eat more carbs to increase fiber. For example, many people lean toward salad because it’s low calorie and full of micronutrients. However, because of its low caloric density it doesn’t hold much fiber. A few cups of raw spinach equal around 2 grams of fiber, but a medium sized apple with a tablespoon of nut butter is 7 grams. Other high fiber foods include non-processed grains like quinoa and oats, starches like sweet potatoes and most fruits & vegetables.
Now to the evidence…
A research review had individuals consume as much food as they wanted and found consumption of an extra 14 grams of fiber daily was associated with weight loss of four pounds over the four-month study.
A meta-analysis of over 62 trials found that dietary fiber significantly improved body weight independent of caloric restriction. That means high fiber intake improved weight loss without eating less calories.
Another analysis including over 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials with 4,635 participants found increased fiber intake was associated with 15-30% decrease in cardiovascular related mortality, type 2 diabetes, breast and colorectal cancer. It also showed significantly lower bodyweight, blood pressure and total cholesterol when comparing high versus low fiber intakes.
I’ll let that soak in and leave you one final piece of advice… we are bombarded constantly with things to focus on: calories, exercise, organic, keto, fasting, skinny teas, etc. What would it look like to focus on ONE thing that affects so many internal health variables and just let the external results follow? What if you JUST focused on fiber?
Be on the lookout for my next blog “A Dietitian’s Guide to Eating More Fiber,” to learn more about high fiber foods, different types of fiber and how to successfully incorporate more fiber into your diet.
Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, et al. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011;12(9):724-739.
Jovanovski E, Mazhar N, Komishon A, Khayyat R, Li D, Blanco Mejia S, Khan T, L Jenkins A, Smircic-Duvnjak L, L Sievenpiper J, Vuksan V. Can dietary viscous fiber affect body weight independently of an energy-restrictive diet? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Feb 1;111(2):471-485. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz292. PMID: 31897475.