When you hear the term “dietary fiber” what do you think of first? Bran flakes, perhaps. Maybe Metamucil®? Or your granny telling you to “eat more roughage!” Eating fiber doesn’t just boost your colon health and keep things, ahem, regular. Did you know that eating more fiber can help you keep your weight in check? Studies have shown that adding more fiber to your diet can contribute to weight loss. Here’s how:
- Helps keep cravings at bay. Fiber slows the rate at which your meal or snack is digested, which means glucose is released nice and steadily. Less peaks and valleys in your insulin and blood sugar levels can help you avoid cravings for starchy and sugary foods.
- Increases satiety. Because of the slower digestion time, you feel full longer.
- Fewer calories. Very simply, we lack the enzymes necessary to break down fiber. So eating higher fiber foods actually bulks up your meal without contributing calories that will be broken down into energy or fat.
- Anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a key factor in many diseases, including obesity and diabetes. Many fiber-rich foods also have anti-inflammatory properties.
On average Americans eat about 14-15 grams of fiber per day, well below the recommended amount of 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. (After the age of fifty, it’s 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men). So for most people, taking a fiber supplement isn’t necessary, but rather eating more of a whole foods based diet – focusing on fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and gluten-free whole grains – is enough to boost fiber intake to adequate levels. Adding more fiber to your diet can be as simple as replacing white rice with brown rice or sprinkling some chia seeds or ground flax seeds on your yogurt or adding cooked artichoke hearts to your salad. It’s important to add fiber into your diet gradually and drink plenty of water in order to minimize digestive distress. Aim for at least 6-8 grams per meal and 3-5 grams per snack.
Does this mean you’ll be eating more so-called “rabbit food”? No way! Here are some high-fiber meal and snack ideas that you’ll find delicious:
- For breakfast, eat gluten-free oatmeal topped with shredded coconut and berries or a vegetable frittata topped with avocado and your favorite fresh salsa.
- At your next party, serve up some blanched veggies and this Black Bean Roasted Poblano Hummus – yum!
- Make soups that are loaded with veggies and beans, such as minestrone.
- Pop some popcorn with coconut oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings.
- Try this refreshing Peach Ginger Mint Green Smoothie.
- Eat a simple snack of apple slices and a handful of raw almonds.
- And of course, try a Zing Bar! You knew I was going to get there… right? Well, Zing bars do have 4 grams of fiber each, a significant amount for a single snack.
What’s your favorite high-fiber meal or snack?
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.