If you want to lose a few pounds, there's one thing you should definitely be eating more of: fiber! Why? This plant-based roughage is a weight-loss wonder. But fear not: you don't need to resort to eating old-school oat bran cereal or adding a fiber supplement to your smoothie in order to up your fiber intake. Some of the most delicious foods, such as raspberries, strawberries, chickpeas, edamame, and sweet potatoes, are also some of the highest in fiber. Read on to get the lowdown on how fiber can help you shed pounds, find out how much fiber you should be eating, and get 10 yummy fiber-rich meal and snack ideas.
How Much Fiber Do I Need?
We all know most Americans aren't eating enough fiber, but how much do you really need? The USDA recommends you eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. So, if you are eating a 2,000-calorie diet, you need about 28 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans get about half that, since the Standard American Diet is high is processed foods and animal fats that are devoid of fiber. In order to get more fiber, you need to eat more plant foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources.
What's the Difference Between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber?
While nutritional labels don't discern between insoluble and soluble fiber, they come from different sources, and act differently in the body, too.
Insoluble fiber is found in the peels, skins, or husks of plant-based foods. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and so it passes quickly through your body, mostly intact, promoting regularity, as long as you have adequate water intake.
Soluble fiber comes from the "flesh" or innards of plant-based foods. For example, when you eat an apple, the skin of the apple is insoluble fiber, while the flesh of the apple is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water. Once ingested, it forms a gel-like substance in your small intestines that mixes with other partially digested foods.
If you focus on eating more whole plant foods, you don't need to be overly mindful of the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber, since they are usually packaged together in whole foods such as brown rice, corn, beans, chickpeas, grapes, apples, raspberries, and celery.
What Makes Fiber Such a Weight-Loss Wonder?
Fiber-rich foods are important for weight loss for two reasons:
1. Fiber-rich foods make you feel satisfied but are naturally low in calories.
The math on weight loss is actually pretty simple. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Sounds easy, right? The problem is that in order to feel "full," receptors in your stomach also require a certain amount of food. Here's where insoluble fiber, in particular, plays an important role: while insoluble fiber is a carbohydrate, your body can't digest it as well as it digests other carbs, sugars, fats, and proteins, so it basically helps create a sensation of satiety by filling you up, but then passes right through you without adding to the net calories you are eating.
2. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels, which can curb overeating.
When soluble fiber forms its gel-like substance and mixes with other foods in your small intestines, it can help "trap" sugars and fats, and slow their absorption, according to the National Fiber Council; therefore, insoluble fibers can further aid weight loss by stabilizing blood sugar levels, which can curb overeating and prevent your body from storing excess fat.
10 Tasty High-Fiber Snack and Meal Ideas:
- 1 large apple (5.4 grams) + 2 tablespoons almond butter (3.2 grams) = 8.6 grams fiber
- 1 cup steamed edamame, in pods (5.7 grams) + sea salt = 5.7 grams fiber
- 1/2 cup Brazil nuts = 5 grams fiber
- 3 celery stalks (3 grams) + 1/2 cup hummus (4.7 grams) = 7.7 grams fiber
- 1 cup refreshing quinoa salad = 10 grams fiber
- 1 half avocado (4.6 grams) with 1 slice sprouted whole wheat toast (2.2 grams) = 6.8 grams fiber
- 1 cup quick oatmeal (8.2 grams) + 1 cup raspberries (8 grams) + 1/2 cup slivered almonds (6.75 grams) = 22.95 grams fiber
- 2 black bean toasted corn tacos = 14 grams fiber
- 1 cup cooked whole wheat spaghetti (5.9 grams) + 1/2 cup cooked kale (2.6) + 1/2 cup white beans (9.3) = 17.8 grams fiber
- 1 1/2 cup curried red lentil soup = 13 grams fiber
Nutritional Information Source: US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory