Fiber is so beneficial to weight loss that adding high-fiber foods every meal is important to most successful weight loss regimes.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that under age 50, men require 30 g and women require 21 g of fiber per day. The typical American diet includes only 10 g (or less) per day of fiber.
The Fiber Weight Loss Advantage
During weight loss, consuming even more (up to 35 to 40 g of fiber per day) can really help you shed pounds. Of course, if you haven’t been getting much fiber in your diet, you should work up to that amount slowly to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort. Your digestive system will need some time to adjust. Incorporating more fiber as a regular part of your diet will also help you keep weight off, once you lose it.
Planning Your Fiber Intake
Here’s how you could incorporate that fiber split among the three main meals:
Breakfast: 5 to 8 g
Lunch: 15 to 17 g
Dinner: 15 to 18 g
Sources of Dietary Fiber
Sources of fiber include vegetables, fruits, beans (and other legumes), and whole grains. Most slow-carbs such as quinoa are good sources of fiber. Chia seeds contain 5 g of fiber in one tablespoon, and they’re easy to add to smoothies, cereal or yogurt. Fiber is one of the reasons that slow carbs digest slowly and are so effective in aiding weight loss.
Benefits of Increasing Fiber
Increasing fiber in your diet is particularly beneficial if you are hypothyroid, have high cholesterol and of course if you need to lose weight. Certain types of fiber may also relieve symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Adding more fiber to your diet can also stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria that improve gastrointestinal health and immunity.
There have been several studies that concluded that adding fiber to a diet designed for weight loss resulted in significant increased weight loss compared to control groups whose diets do not include fiber. The fiber weight loss advantage is tested!
Two Main Types of Fiber
There are two kinds of fiber, and you’re probably best off with a mixture of both, which you will usually get naturally if you are obtaining your fiber through healthy food choices.
Soluble fiber, which is fiber that easily dissolves in water. This fiber is found in substances such as the pectin and gum found in beans, oats, and fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber creates a thick gel in your gastrointestinal tract, slowing the stomach from emptying its contents. There are significant benefits to this in relation to weight loss.
First you’ll feel full longer, and tend to eat less. This is an obvious boon to those who are trying to lose weight. There is a clear impact on hormones because when your stomach is full of fiber, you produce less of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry and slows your metabolism. Fiber slows down the absorption of macronutrients.
Insoluble fiber is also known as roughage. It passes through your gastrointestinal tract without breaking down. Examples of this include lignin, which is found in strawberries and root vegetables; cellulose which is found in cabbage, apples and legumes; and hemicellulose which is found in whole grains and bran. Insoluble fiber supports regular bowel movements, helping food and toxins pass through your gastrointestinal tract.
Fiber supplements are readily available if you find it a challenge to get enough fiber directly from your diet. Fiber comes in capsules, oils and powders. Some common fiber supplements include:
Psyllium – psyllium husk is the seed shell (husk) of the plantago psyllium plant, and found in products such as Metamucil
Pectin – pectin is a thickening agent found in the cells of fruits such as apples, plums, and pears. It is sold as a nutritional supplement in powder form.
Inulin – a fiber derived from vegetables, and contained in products such as FiberChoice.
Fiber Can Affect Medications
Be aware that adding significant amounts of fiber to your diet can affect absorption certain medications. Examples include (but are not limited to) thyroid medication, as well as medications needed for diabetes (because fiber helps regulate blood sugar). Consult your doctor to ensure that you know when to take your medications (for example thyroid medication is normally taken an hour before eating in the morning), as well as to see if dosage needs to be adjusted.
How to Get the Most from Fiber Supplements
- Check with your doctor before starting a new fiber supplement
- Increase the amount of fiber you take each day gradually
- Drink plenty of liquids (at least 8 cups daily)
- Split fiber intake among all meals (don’t take it all at one time)
- Take medications at least one hour before fiber supplements, or two hours after (or as instructed by your doctor)