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Fiber: The Secret To Weight Loss

According to Edward Saltzman, M.D., director of the Obesity Center at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, "Fiber can help with weight loss because it increases the sensation of fullness, and influences the hormones that regulate food intake."


The Problem: Life Without Adequate Fiber

People struggle with weight loss for a variety of reasons. Ironically, many of us overeat, yet we never feel full. A diet rich in processed food, and produce grown in soil depleted of many of the nutrients our bodies need to feel satiated, has resulted in a nation of people who are incredibly overweight, but always hungry.

In addition, our low-fiber, Standard American Diet means we're not adequately eliminating much of what we ingest, which contributes to unwanted weight gain, and has lead to chronic constipation in epidemic proportion.


The Solution: How Fiber Facilitates Weight Loss

Tufts research illustrates that people who consumed an additional 14 grams of fiber daily cut their calorie intake by 10 percent; those who added 12 grams lost a pound per month!

Why? Because as fiber passes through our intestines, it actually carries fat and calories out, preventing the body from breaking down and absorbing some of the fat and cholesterol we ingest.

Fiber acts as a bulking agent, and promotes quicker movement of food through the digestive tract. Fiber requires more chewing than other foods, triggering the body's sense of feeling full. This is important because the brain is ten minutes behind the stomach when it comes to satiation; by the time you feel full you've likely already overeaten!

There are two types of fiber. Each performs a unique, fat-fighting function:

  • Insoluble, fat-fighting fiber: travels through the intestines completely intact, and is responsible for preventing constipation, removing toxic waste from the colon, and balancing acidity in the intestines. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and swells in the colon, encouraging the speedy elimination of stool and toxins from your system.


  • Soluble, fat-fighting fiber: binds with fatty acids and works to lower cholesterol levels. It also slows down the absorption of glucose, facilitating your cells in burning sugar for energy, rather than storing it as fat. By regulating insulin levels – a vital function for diabetics – hunger is controlled, and you'll eat less as a result!

Getting Your Fill Of Fiber

Many fiber-filled foods are natural weight-loss promoters. Below are some ideas for adding fiber, as well as a bit of sparkle, to your current recipes:

Fruits Filled With Fiber

Apples, regardless of the type, are low in calories and high in fiber. They expand your stomach, so you'll feel full longer, and require less food to satisfy your hunger.

Apricots are especially rich in insoluble fiber; they absorb water and foster a feeling of fullness. For maximum benefit eat fresh, skin and all. Or dip in boiling water for 30 seconds, and peel under cold running water.

Blackberries are high in fiber and relatively low in sugar. Dissolved in water, blackberries form pectin, which helps to stabilize blood-sugar levels. Two-thirds of blackberries' fiber is insoluble; by absorbing water and swelling, it enables the quick elimination of toxins and stool from your body.

Dates are fat- and cholesterol-free, and full of soluble and insoluble fiber. They help to suppress the appetite. Stuff them with nuts or a piece of crystallized gingerroot, or add to home-baked breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, salads, and desserts. Chop and sprinkle on rice, couscous, or vegetables.

Kiwifruit is high in fiber and low in calories. Use it to add pizzazz to fruit and vegetable salads. Cut kiwi in half, and scoop out with a spoon; peel, slice, and eat; or simply rub off the brown fuzz, and eat it whole – the skin is edible!

Mangoes are ripe with fiber and nutrients. Eat chilled mangoes for breakfast or dessert. Mangoes are perfect in sauces and chutneys, or simply serve them sprinkled with lime juice.

Raspberries are low in calories and high in fiber – 3 grams of fiber per cup. Immediately before serving, take chilled raspberries and rinse with cool water. Make a raspberry puree to pour over fruit salad or waffles. Or simply use as a colorful garnish.


Fiber-Filled Grains And Cereals

Barley is low in fat, cholesterol-free, and packed with soluble and insoluble fiber. Its bulking effect curbs the appetite, and keeps digestive disorders in check. Stuff barley into vegetables, bake in casseroles, or serve as an alternative to rice. The perfect thickener for stews and soups, barley can also be eaten in salads or as a side dish.

Bran promotes weight loss by filling you up. It requires some chewing, which gives your body time to realize it's full before you have a chance to overeat. Sprinkle on yogurt, cereal, salads, and cut-up fruit, or use it to top a casserole, or coat fish.

Bulgur is high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories. A cup of bulgur – with its nutty flavor – offers twice the fiber of brown rice, and fewer fat and calories. Partially cooked, it requires little preparation time. Use in place of rice in most recipes, or in cold salads.

Millet is rich both in fiber and in protein. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal by cooking it with apple juice instead of water. Sprinkle with brown sugar, raisins, and nuts. Combine it with cooked beans or peas and a few spices to make vegetarian burgers, or add it to stews and soups.


Vegetables And Fiber

Artichokes are high in insoluble fiber and low in fat. They require little preparation, but are time-consuming to eat – which means you'll eat less! To prepare artichokes, wash, pull off the outer and lower petals, and trim off the pointed tips of the outer leaves. Boil them standing upright for about 30 minutes, until center petal pulls out easily. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Cabbage contains vitamins and fiber, with the fewest calories and least fat of any vegetable. Create a colorful coleslaw by combining green and red cabbage. Savoy is well suited for stuffing, and bok choy and napa are perfect in stir-fries.

Corn is a high-fiber, hearty, appetite-curbing vegetable. Its insoluble fiber works wonders for common digestive ailments. Boil, grill, steam, or microwave for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with herbs or fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead of butter, or rub with a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of chili pepper.

Kale is unusually high in fiber. Simmer greens in a well-seasoned stock for 10 to 30 minutes, until tender. One pound of raw kale yields about a half a cup of cooked. Use in stews, soups, and stir-fries.

Lettuce can help fight fat with its high fiber content. A salad before a meal works to modulate hunger. Romaine provides nutrition, but iceberg does not. Consider using more flavorful and nutritional salad greens like arugula, chicory, endive, radicchio, and watercress.

Squash is all about fiber. It fills you up, so it's easy to resist second helpings. Winter squash – such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, and spaghetti – have dark, inedible skins. Summer varieties – such as chayote, yellow crookneck, and zucchini – have thin, edible skins. Bake, steam, sauté, or simmer, and sprinkle winter squash with allspice, cinnamon, curry, fennel, marjoram, nutmeg, sage, and tarragon. Try dill, basil, and oregano on summer squash.


Fiber In Legumes, Nuts, And Seeds

~ A legume is a simple, dry fruit often referred to as a pod. Alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, and peanuts are examples. ~

Lentils are a great source of low-fat protein. An excellent meat substitute, they're full of fiber and a variety of nutrients. The body absorbs lentils slowly, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Because red lentils cook quickly, they are suited to dips, purees, and soups, and dishes in which firmness isn't desirable. Green and brown lentils keep their shape and work well in salads. Lentils, which take on the flavor of aromatic herbs and spices, cook in 30 to 45 minutes, and don't need to be soaked prior to cooking.

Peanuts add a bit of zip to many ordinary dishes. Crush up a handful and sprinkle over your salad or bowl of rice.

Sesame Seeds are a wonderfully flavorful addition to salads and rice. Roast a quarter cup of them in a dry skillet over low heat. But pay attention, and stir regularly; these little gems will turn golden brown – releasing their nutty flavor – in a quick flash!

For more detailed information on grams of fiber per serving, see our printable fiber chart.


Fiber-packed Food Quick Tips

  • Start the day with whole-grain breads: 3 grams of fiber per slice.


  • Enjoy a healthy snack of popcorn: 9 grams of fiber per 100 calorie serving.


  • Eat fruits and vegetables raw, including the skins, for extra fiber.


  • Consider cutting-edge fiber products such as orange juice: 3 grams of fiber per glass.


  • Add unprocessed bran to meatloaf, potpies, breads, muffins, casseroles, and other baked goods.


  • Increase fiber in dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese by adding fresh fruit, vegetables, or bran cereal.


  • Get more fiber with beans, black-eyed peas, dried fruits, nuts, wheat bran, and oatmeal.

Despite the myriad of ways to increase fiber intake, sometimes our harried schedules make getting enough nearly impossible. Consider adding to your daily fiber intake with a dietary psyllium-based fiber supplement to help balance out those high and low fiber days.


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