March 1, 2022
Benefits Of Fiber-Rich Foods For Weight Loss | Obesity Medicine
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Dietary fiber has a much more significant role in health and isn't just managing constipation. Several scientific studies and research now explain their role in treatment, prevention, and reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers like colon cancer. Fiber is only found in plant sources of foods and is classified as soluble, insoluble, fermentable, and non-fermentable based on how it is digested in our gut.
If you didn't know, fiber can only be found in foods and is unavailable in isolation like Metamucil powder or capsules. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating foods containing fiber in their natural form provides fullness or satiety and leads to lower consumption of calories. Further, chewing and biting these foods, rather than guzzling down a glass of juice, burns more calories when chewing. Another benefit of fiber-rich foods for weight loss is slowing down the speed at which food moves down the stomach and gut – which is another mechanism that keeps us full and less hungry between meals. Fiber also holds on to more water and adds to bulking and volume, so it's popularly used to manage constipation. Adequate hydration helps this purpose. Pro tip: eating fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and avoiding dried fruits is better.
The net calories absorbed from fiber-rich foods (nutrient-dense foods) are much lower than foods that do not contain fiber. Most processed foods, ultra-processed foods, and beverages do not contain fiber or minimal fiber, making them accessible to absorbable high-calorie content [calorie-dense foods] and favoring obesity. Natural alternatives are ideal high-fiber foods for weight loss.
Fiber in a diet is a rich source of nutrition for the healthy bacteria in our gut. These gut bacteria digest the fiber and break it into short-chain fatty acids that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Several studies have shown specific patterns on predominant gut bacteria species identified in obese versus healthy weight individuals, showing that appetite, hunger, and metabolism can be vastly altered and develop ways of eating, weight gain, or weight loss. This effect, however, isn't sustained unless the recipient maintains healthy eating habits.
The standard American diet is known to have around 10-15gm fiber daily, while the recommended dietary fiber is 35-50gms per day. It has been noted that higher fiber diets, such as in hunter-gatherer populations such as Haadza in Tanzania, have a greater variety of healthy gut bacteria species that favor well-being and less incidence of chronic disease. In contrast, industrialized populations that consume higher amounts of processed foods have a lower array of gut bacteria and a higher risk of chronic illnesses and cancers.
While increasing the overnight consumption of fiber can lead to gas, bloating, cramps, etc., it is recommended to slowly increase the intake of high-fiber foods and work closely with a specialized dietician.
Ideal fiber-rich foods for weight loss include:
- Vegetables: most vegetables if steamed, roasted, or raw – green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, spinach, and kale
- Unprocessed whole grains: wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, millets, lentils, wheat, corn, old-fashioned oatmeal/overnight oats
- Fruits: apples, plums, berries and bananas
Handy tip – if foods have more than 2-4 ingredients with unrecognizable names, these are processed foods. Foods that you recognize that are straight from nature and unaltered, or minimally altered, are considered whole foods and much more favorable for health benefits and maximize the benefits of fiber for weight loss/preventing weight gain.
Read Foods That Aid in Stress Relief and Lowering Inflammation for more information on healthy eating.
- BULSIEWICZ, W. I. L. L. (2022). Fiber fueled: The plant-based gut health program for losing weight, restoring your health, and... optimizing your microbiome. AVERY PUB GROUP.
- Lustig, R. H. (2021). Metabolical: The truth about processed food and how it poisons people and the planet. Yellow Kite.
- Quinn, S., & Lustig, R. H. (2011). The real truth about sugar: A full summary & analysis of dr. Robert Lustig's video lecture "Sugar: The bitter truth". River City eBooks.