A High Fiber Diet is Your Ally for Weight Loss

High fiber diet - colorful uncooked beans

Beans are loaded with fiber! Use them in place of starches.

By now, you’ve probably heard that eating a high fiber diet can help you lose weight. Plus, it’s easy to get more fiber now that cereal bars, yogurts, ice creams, soups and drink mixes come with fiber! But before you go “upgrading” your pantry with these fiber-added goodies, there are a few important things you should know about fiber and how eating more of it can help you manage your weight and your health.

What is fiber?

Fiber is a carbohydrate naturally found in plant foods. Unlike other carbs, our digestive systems actually can’t break down fibers, so they travel through our bodies undigested. Some fibers even get partially “eaten” by bacteria living in our colon while others just pass right on through. But not all fibers are the same. The different attributes of various kinds of fibers are what contribute to the myriad of health benefits that come from eating a high fiber diet such as lower cholesterol, improved blood glucose control, reduced risk of certain cancers and easier weight management.

How does a high fiber diet help with weight loss?

On average, we get about 2 calories per gram of fiber, so it’s less energy dense than other carbs, fats or protein. Some fibers thicken and take up space in the stomach, providing a feeling of fullness. Other fibers slow digestion, delaying the return of hunger. Many high fiber foods also have chewy or crunchy textures that take longer to eat, allowing time for your satiety response to kick-in. Fiber may even block the absorption of a small amount of fat and other carbs from your meal. Combined, these factors add up to make a high fiber diet a great ally for weight loss.

Tips to incorporate more fiber into your diet

High fiber diets don’t require special foods or supplements. Instead, you can build a diet that includes a variety of plant-based foods to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount and variety of fiber including:

  • Beans are loaded with fiber! Use them in place of starches such as rice or pasta to get more than twice the fiber and protein. Add beans to soups, salads, stews and eggs; use mashed beans as a veggie dip or sandwich spread; or use beans to make healthier meatloaf or brownies.
  • Trade juice, fruit syrups, jelly, and applesauce for whole fruits. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a fruity dessert. Eat the skins of apples and pears as well as edible seeds from fruits like kiwis and raspberries.
  • Add flavor and some fiber with dried herbs and spices. Cinnamon is more than 50% fiber and can be sprinkled on oatmeal, fruits, yogurt, smoothies and soups. Dried oregano, basil, chili powder or curry powder can also help add fiber to many recipes. Fiber is even found in chocolate. With only 12 calories and 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon, unsweetened cocoa powder adds flavor to coffee, yogurt or even chili.
  • Eat a variety of veggies in stir-fries, salads, casseroles, sandwiches and soups. Different veggies have different fibers so mix it up!
  • Toss some healthy fats and fiber into salads with chopped nuts, seeds or avocado. Just watch the portion sizes to keep calories in check.
  • Give your morning yogurt or bowl of fruit a crunchy fiber boost by mixing in some bran flakes cereal, rolled oat or chopped nuts.
  • Use Zestar Diet Pilot for meal recommendations that are typically high in fiber

Just remember, when you’re increasing your fiber do so gradually and drink plenty of water to let your digestive system become accustomed to it. This will help minimize potential side effects that can happen when adding too much fiber too soon.

Jeannemarie Beiseigel, PhD, RD, is a registered dietitian with a doctorate in human nutrition, foods, and exercise. She’s worked with academia, government and industry and has several published research studies. She recently started her own practice as independent nutrition consultant for businesses and individuals. You can e-mail Jeannemarie at jbeiseigel@gmail.com. Read Jeannemarie's full bio.

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