Updated: May 19
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Unlike other types of carbohydrates, fiber is not broken down by the body into sugar molecules instead it passes through the body undigested. However, it does provide a number of important physical benefits including regulating the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger at bay, and blood sugar in check, particularly when it comes to weight loss. Adults need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, but most Americans only consume about 15 grams a day. What are the many physical benefits of fiber, digestive health, and weight loss?
Types of Fiber:
Insoluble Fiber: does not dissolve in water, can help food move through the digestive system, promoting regularity and aiding in preventing constipation. Found in whole wheat products, leafy greens, and legumes.
Soluble fiber: dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels and lower blood cholesterol. Found in oatmeal, chia seeds, nuts, pears, and apples.
1. Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels
Some studies have shown that diets low in fiber, particularly insoluble types, may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber slows down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream, which helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. This is important for weight loss because when blood sugar levels are stable, you are less likely to experience cravings and overeat. Some ranges estimate 1 in every 3 adults in the United States is prediabetic. Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for helping glucose enter cells in your muscle, fat, and liver for energy. Prediabetes often occurs in people who experience insulin resistance, which is when cells in your body don’t respond well to insulin and as a result, can take up glucose from your blood. The extra glucose in your bloodstream could over time develop into type 2 diabetes.
2. Fiber promotes feelings of fullness
Fiber takes longer to digest than other types of carbohydrates, which means that it stays in the stomach longer and helps to promote feelings of fullness. This is important for weight loss because when you feel full, you are less likely to overeat. High-fiber foods typically take longer to digest and tend to be less calorically dense, suggesting fewer calories for the same volume of food.
3. Fiber reduces the number of calories absorbed from food
Technically, fiber is a form of carbohydrate and it can be found in an array of foods. The calories consumed as fiber contribute to satiety, but cannot be absorbed in our body. This means that even if you consume the same number of calories, you will absorb fewer calories when you eat high-fiber foods. This is important for weight loss because it helps you to create a calorie deficit without feeling hungry. In some ways, a calorie from a high-fiber food is not the same as a calorie from a low-fiber food.
4. Fiber promotes healthy digestion
Fiber helps to promote healthy digestion by adding bulk to the stool (easier to pass), preventing constipation, and improving regularity. This is important for weight loss because when your digestive system is working properly, you are less likely to experience bloating and other digestive issues that can make you feel uncomfortable and discouraged. Research shows that an increase in fiber can significantly alter a person’s gut microbiome, helping to maintain colorectal health. Maintaining colorectal health can also play a role in lower the risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases of the colon.
5. Fiber reduces inflammation
Inflammation in the body is associated with a number of health problems, including obesity. Fiber helps to reduce inflammation by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which play an important role in regulating the digestive system and immune system. This is important for weight loss because when your body is not inflamed, it is easier to lose weight. Inflammation in the body triggers a stress response in which the physiological processes necessary for adequate digestion are affected, reducing the uptake of nutrition.
Fiber is an incredibly important nutrient that offers a wide range of physical benefits, particularly when it comes to weight loss. By adding more fiber to your diet, you can reduce inflammation, promote healthy digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and promote feelings of fullness, all of which can help you to create a calorie deficit and lose weight. So if you're looking to lose weight, make sure to include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet. Be careful adding too much fiber into your diet too quickly, as this can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating, and cramping. Slowly increase your fiber intake over a few weeks to allow the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the increased intake. Make sure to drink water as fiber works best when it absorbs water. Lastly, before resorting to a fiber supplement try to consume your fiber from natural foods.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.
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