Losing excess weight isn’t easy, as some diets and environments are high in refined carbohydrates or fats. However, there’s a missing nutrient that many Americans and even others around the world are lacking. It’s believed that many people only consume half the fiber they need.
This type of carbohydrate is known to help improve your health overall and it won’t just make you lose belly fat. How does fiber help you lose weight? All the details are found below.
The Two Types of Fiber
Two types of fiber are in the various foods we eat, namely soluble and insoluble fiber. Even within these two groups are several different carbohydrates. It’s the former that is usually connected to reducing weight.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can bind with fatty acids, triggering the body to flush all the bad cholesterol out since not all fiber is digested the way sugars and vitamins are. As the fiber dissolves, a gel is formed in your digestive tract. Fiber helps regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels, which is crucial for preventing diabetes.
Insoluble fiber will instead absorb water into your stools and make them easier to pass. In other words, your bowels experience less strain as the risks of constipation are also lowered. Similar to soluble fiber, the insoluble counterpart helps stave off diabetes.
Here is a list of types of soluble fiber:
- Resistant starch
- Wheat dextrin
These are examples of insoluble fiber commonly encountered:
- Certain types of hemicellulose
- Some pectins
Based on this information, it’s natural to conclude that consuming fiber is essential to maintaining good gut health. Our digestive tract should be healthy, as weight gain has been connected to the gut.
With the proper amount of fiber in your daily diet, you can enjoy the following benefits:
- Control your body weight
- Reduce or even prevent hypertension
- Balance blood cholesterol levels
- Regulate bowel health
- Prevent blood sugar levels from spiking or dipping
- Feel full after a meal
- Reduce risks of colon and breast cancer
- Prevent diabetes
- Chew more and improve the digestive processes
The recommended fiber intake for a healthy adult is 30 grams and above per day. Of course, you shouldn’t consume too much fiber either. Bloating, constipation, and flatulence are but three possible symptoms of having too much fiber.
Should you overdose on fiber, the signs can become severe. Nausea and vomiting can occur, and that’s when you have to call your doctor. Reduce the fiber content until your doctor declares you healthy again.
Fiber supplements are acceptable substitutes for naturally-occurring fiber in vegetables and fruit, but they shouldn’t be the primary source for everyone. Fortunately, foods rich in this fiber are tasty and easy to procure. You might even be snacking on some right now.
Fiber Fights Inflammation
The human body’s various systems are connected, and one part that develops problems can affect another. For example, weight gain is linked to diabetes, heart disease, specific cancers, and a host of serious health issues. Some of these are associated with chronic inflammation, while others aren’t but are still treatable with increased fiber consumption.
Chronic inflammation can lead to certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Even low-grade inflammation is enough to prompt the development of these silent and potentially lethal diseases.
A research team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School took it upon themselves to compare two diets. One had more fiber-rich foods while cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and salt. The other group was asked to reach 30 grams of fiber daily but did not have the restrictions the other group had.
The group of 240 volunteers was also left to their own devices and followed their assigned diets without additional input to start exercising. Each of them had symptoms such as being overweight, high blood glucose levels, increased cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These are potential gateways to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.
The two groups managed to meet an average of 19 grams of fiber each day and lost weight. The first diet was more effective than the second, with participants losing 4.6 pounds to 5.9 pounds. Nevertheless, all of them were able to maintain the weight loss for a year.
Another effect was a heightened response to insulin, which is necessary to lower blood sugar levels and combat diabetes. Insulin levels are another health indicator.
No matter the first (American Heart Association) or second (Mediterranean) diet, it’s clear that increased fiber intake can make a significant difference.
Feed Your Good Bacteria
Our large intestines and gut area harbor at least 100 trillion bacteria, measuring up to 200 grams. That’s equivalent to about 80 pennies or at least two adult cockatiels. These microbes and more are instrumental for general health, from weight control to brain function.
Bacteria are living organisms that eat to stay alive and reproduce, and one way to feed them is by increasing your fiber intake. Soluble fiber is their favorite food, though some insoluble fiber such as resistant starch is also welcome. These microorganisms digest it and convert it into the energy they need.
Nutritionists and dietitians refer to these as prebiotics or fermentable fiber. They are excellent for controlling body weight.
If tests reveal a diverse gut microbiome, it’s considered a hallmark of good health. The bacteria should also resist antibiotics and have a variety of genes.
These living organisms are one of the best defenses against harmful microbes and train the immune system to target only the dangerous invaders. During our life, we ingest toxic substances by accident, and our gut microbiota can protect us from their harmful effects.
Empty carbs are the reason why snacks aren’t filling, even if they contain large amounts of sugar. Thus, you’re tempted to keep eating, resulting in a sudden spike in blood sugar. Aside from the risk of diabetes, when unchecked, you can gain weight rapidly from snacking.
That’s why soluble fiber helps counter these impulses. The food is slowed down when it dissolves in water and forms a gel.
This action helps reduce your appetite.
Some fiber also reduces the hormones that induce hunger and promote the production of others that help you feel satiated.
A slower glucose release rate makes the body secrete insulin at a matching pace. You won’t feel as hungry as you would by eating simpler sugars.
If natural fiber sources aren’t an option for you, doctors may prescribe or recommend supplements. These tend to be soluble fiber, and studies demonstrate some connections to weight loss. There are many types available to choose from.
One example is psyllium husk, which helped teenage boys reduce belly fat in a six week study. They were all 15 to 16 years old and given six grams of psyllium or a placebo each day. In the end, the boys who were given the psyllium supplements experienced improved fat distribution.
Glucomannan, a viscous fiber, has given mixed results. Nevertheless, separate studies on mice and humans did show reduced belly fat. Strangely, only men from the test on humans experienced this change.
Type 2 diabetes patients were given inulin or cellulose for nine weeks, along with instructions for following a fat-loss diet. Both groups lost weight, but the participants who ate inulin supplements lost more belly fat than the cellulose group. The cellulose group also ate more food than the other.
Even though there are studies, fiber supplements and their relationship with weight loss are still not conclusive. Moreover, switching to a healthier diet before trying supplements is always better. The name “supplement” means they shouldn’t be the primary way of getting a nutrient.
Natural Fiber Sources
Nature already contains an endless supply of healthy fiber ready for you to consume. These are some of the best sources.
- Cooked oatmeal
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat products
- Green beans
- Kidney beans
- Baked beans
- Pears with the skin
There are even more products to consider.
- Citrus fruit
- Apples with skin
Some of these are great on their own, but you can always find a recipe incorporating several of the ingredients on the list. Soups, stews, and casseroles make excellent meals, especially for lunch or dinner. When your sweet tooth is calling, replace candy with fresh fruit.
Nuts and whole-wheat products contain more insoluble fiber. You can consider these as healthy snacks or breakfast. Alternatively, mix both types of fiber in a dish.
Exercise improves your mood and helps burn excess energy storage (calories). That’s why maintaining an active lifestyle is key to preventing weight gain. Fiber is good for fighting health issues, but that alone isn’t enough.
Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet will slowly help you shed those pounds and reach your ideal bodyweight. We’ve covered some ways to burn belly fat, which is usually where the excess sugar and fat goes. In time, you’ll become more energetic and alert.
Does fiber help you lose weight? Yes, this nutrient is necessary for weight loss, as many Americans only eat half of the recommended daily intake. By making changes to the foods you eat, the body will slowly rid itself of excess pounds.