Dietary fiber does more than keep us regular. If you’re struggling to lose weight, then adding more fiber to your diet may be just what you need.
The highs and lows of fiber
Fiber is low in nutrition but high in health benefits. Siv Sjholm, a former international model and founder of the Success is Vitality (SIV) nutritional and counseling service, teaches clients how a high-fiber diet helps you lose weight and maintain that weight loss. “Avoid processed foods that are low in fiber and high in simple carbohydrates and sugars,” explains Sjohlm. “Eat a nutrient-rich diet that is low in calories, instead of a high-calorie diet that is low in nutrients.”
Low-carb vs. no-carb diets
You’ve heard of low-carb diets, but a high-fiber diet might be referred to as no-carbs.
Fiber is classified as a carbohydrate, but it differs significantly from the high-calorie carbs you get from white bread, white rice and white pasta (among other things).
Fiber is an “indigestible carbohydrate,” explains Dr. Elaine Rancatore of 2RHealth. Your body can’t digest or absorb fiber, so it contains no calories. No other carb (or diet) can make that claim!
in with the fiber and out with the waste
So if I can’t digest it then why do I need it? “Fiber is good for the body in many ways, says naturopathic physician Wendy Wells. “Eating fiber increases the immune system in your gut, feeds the good probiotic bacteria there, keeps the digestive lining healthy, and absorbs and pulls out excess hormones, cholesterol, fat and toxins from the body.”
Fiber works hard in your intestines to digest and pass the foods you eat, explains Sjolhm. Preventing obesity is just one of the many health benefits fiber provides.
Good bacteria vs. bad bacteria
“Studies have discovered a harmful bacteria in the gut of overweight people that actually converts sugars to store fats, ” says Sheryl Ellinwood, co-author of Three Plates at the Table: A Nutrition Cookbook for Vegans, Vegetarians and Meat Eaters. Eating a “typical American diet high in processed foods and lacking in fiber,” starves and kills the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system and allows harmful bacteria to grow. Eating fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables feeds the beneficial bacteria. The healthy bacteria can then eliminate the bad, fat-storing bacteria.
Using fiber as a diet tool
“Fiber assists weight control in several ways,” says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, A.P. DOM, who’s been mentored by Dr Andrew Weil fo 20 years:
- fiber-rich foods such as fruit, vegatables and whole grains contain few calories per volume
- the extra chewing time involved with eating high-fiber foods may leave you feeling more satisfied
- the bulkiness of high-fiber foods keeps you feeling fuller longer so you’re more in control of your appetite
- you’re inclined to eat less food overall because high-fiber foods are so filling
- high-fiber foods help you stay regular so you look and feel lighter and less bloated
Foods for your high-fiber diet
A high-fiber diet is not a diet, per se, it’s a lifestyle choice. Gradually replace the processed, less-healthy foods in your home with fiber-rich foods like these:
- beans, nuts, seeds and legumes
- whole grain breads, pastas and cereals
- green veggies such as broccoli, artichokes, zuchini and brussels sprouts
- roots such as sweet potatoes (don’t forget to eat the skin)
- fruits with edible skins like apples, grapes and pears
- figs, dates, prunes and other dried fruits
- berries of all kinds
These are the foods you find in the perimeter aisles of the grocery store. The more high-fiber items you eat — for both meals and snacks — the less desire (and room) you’ll have for high-calorie, fattening and less-nutritious foods!