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Benefits for Weight Loss
What exactly is fiber and what does it have to do with weight loss? Fiber is a type carbohydrate, but unlike other carbohydrates fiber is, for the most part, not digested. You consume it, it serves its purpose, and it is removed. It either encourages bulkier stool, allowing for easier, more efficient waste removal (insoluble fiber) or dissolves in water forming a gel-like substance to slow digestion but also to trap and remove toxins and other substances from the body (soluble fiber).
So how does high fiber lead to weight loss? First, by consuming plenty of fiber digestion is slowed. This helps to create a feeling of fullness and stabilize blood sugar levels. Eating a high carbohydrate but low-fiber meal, such as a plain muffin and a glass of orange juice, your body will have a readily available source of carbohydrates which can be converted into glucose and used as energy. Blood sugar levels will increase in the short term, but you will likely be hungry again within an hour or two. You may grab another muffin or a cookie for the quick, instant gratification, but run the risk of taking in too many calories, which will then be stored as fat. Eating a bran muffin and an apple on the other hand will provide carbohydrates for energy, but also fiber to slow the digestive process. The high fiber meal option will make more efficient use of the calories consumed and contribute to a healthy stool that will help remove some of the waste products from the roasted lamb chop or hamburger you ate the night before.
Another way that fiber is helpful for normalizing body weight is by cleansing. By helping to remove waste from the body, such as substances that would otherwise form cholesterol, a high fiber diet decreases the accumulation and storage of waste. This is why fiber is not only beneficial for weight loss, but also for heart health and for the prevention of some cancers such as colon cancer. Also, by removing toxins, fiber takes some of the workload off of the liver, which like the colon is responsible for removing waste from the body. The less toxins in the body the more the liver is able to focus on its other primary function — metabolizing fats. Poor liver function can contribute to weight gain and cellulite.
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How much fiber is enough? According to the Harvard School of Public Health the minimum amount of dietary fiber that the average adult should consume is 20 grams. The more calories you take in the more fiber you should be consuming. While 20 grams is a minimum, aiming for 25 to 35 grams is an optimal goal. There is such a thing as getting too much fiber. Excess fiber can lead to a loss of not only waste but nutrients as well. For this reason, unless recommended by a doctor, stick with getting your fiber from food sources rather than supplements.
The following are good sources of fiber:
- Apple — 3 grams
- Lentils, 2/3 cup cooked — 5.5 grams
- Broccoli, 1/2 cup raw — 4 grams
- Carrots, 1/2 cup cooked — 3.4 grams
- Figs, three dried — 10.5 grams
- Raspberries, 1/2 cup fresh — 4.6 grams
- Sweet potato, one small baked — 4 grams
- Bulgur, one cup cooked — 9.6 grams
- Brown rice, 1/2 cup, raw — 5.5 grams
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Eating a High Fiber Diet
A high fiber weight loss diet is a healthy, natural way to reach and maintain a healthy weight, in conjunction with moderate exercise. There are a few basic tips to follow which can help you get plenty of fiber in your diet through food sources. Try switching white flour products to whole grains. Eat brown rice instead of white rice. Snack on nuts and seeds and fruits and vegetables during the day. Substitute beans or tofu for animal sources of protein two or three times a week. Consume a variety of sources of dietary fiber and enjoy the health benefits of a well-balanced diet.
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Balch, Phyllis, CNC. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition." (The Penguin Group, 2006).
Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
Harvard School of Public Health <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fiber-full-story/index.html#Bottom_line>
American Heart Association <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp>
Fiber Content Chart <http://www.wehealny.org/healthinfo/dietaryfiber/fibercontentchart.html#r>
photo by Bark
photo by Jessica Spengler