weight loss and dietary fiber: the many health benefits of adding fiber to your diet
Recent research has revealed that a diet rich in dietary fiber promotes whole body health. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved two groundbreaking health claims about dietary fiber. One, the FDA has found that a diet rich in fiber prevents certain types of cancer, and two, a dietary fiber reduces your risk of developing coronary artery disease. Undoubtedly, more research is still required, but as it stands now, there are two unique health benefits that you can gain just by increasing your consumption of fiber daily.
Health benefits of increased consumption of dietary fiber?
You might be wondering what is defined as increased consumption of dietary fiber. Well, the FDA, considers fiber sources to be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The FDA has shown that consuming six or more ounces of such items per day with at least three ounces derived from whole grains prevents certain cancers and coronary artery disease. To attain such a dietary balance, you can consume one slice of bread, six or seven whole grain crackers, or even oatmeal and rice to promote one ounce of the whole grain aspect of the dietary balance. As well as consuming an adequate amount of whole grains, you must also include a bevy of fruits and vegetables to reap the health benefits.
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is often referred to as roughage. It is comprised mostly of natural plant foods that your body cannot easily digest or absorb. Specific food components such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, are easily digested and absorbed by the body. However, fiber is not so readily processed. Instead, it passes through the body intact from the stomach into the small intestine and then onward to the colon where it finally exits the body.
Forms of dietary fiber
Most fiber is classified as either soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (does not dissolve in water).
1. Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber is made up of food items such as beans, apples, peas, oats, citrus, barley, psyllium, and oats. It has been found to lower blood cholesterol and the body’s glucose levels.
2. Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber passes through the body’s digestive tract and increases the bulk of the body’s stool as it exits. It helps to relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements. It is also believed to reduce the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer such as colon/rectal carcinoma. Insoluble fiber is items such as wheat bran, wheat flour, cauliflower, nuts, vegetables, potatoes, and beans.
3. Plant-Based: Many plant-based foods are made up of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Prime examples of such foods include beans and oatmeal.
Three types of fiber to include in your diet
1. Arabinoxylan: Found in whole grains which includes the bran and its endosperm. It is fermented in the colon by the microflora, therefore acting similarly to soluble fiber. Arabinoxylan assists in the control of blood glucose and insulin levels in those with impaired glucose tolerance. This is because of the viscosity of the fiber which slows the rate of glucose absorption.
2. Inulin: Found in foods such as wheat, artichokes, onions, garlic, and bananas. It is metabolized by the microflora in the large intestine. Inulin assists in the decrease of two CHD risk factors - total serum cholesterol and LDL. Inulin works as a prebiotic contributing to the overall health of the large intestine, which could prove beneficial to those suffering from ulcerative colitis. Inulin has also shown to increase bone mineral density due to its functionality increasing the absorption of calcium by approximately 20%.
3. β-glucan: Is found in cereal grains, primarily barley, and oats. The benefits of β-glucan are lowering the risk of diabetes and regulating glucose levels for diabetics. It also assists with regulating insulin levels and reduces the risk of heart disease. You can achieve these benefits by consuming only 3.6g of β-glucan per day.
Obesity and fiber
Unfortunately, in today’s modern world, many people consume less than half the recommended allowance of fiber per day. This problem is especially prominent in developed countries such as the United States and some parts of Europe. In such locations, weight issues and obesity has reached astronomical proportions. The direct relation between reduced dietary fiber and weight gain is irrefutable.
Fiber promotes health benefits and weight loss
According to research undertaken by the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program, at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, Kentucky increasing the dietary fiber of children and adults to 14g/1000 kcal will significantly lower the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and gastrointestinal diseases. Further supplementing fiber into an obese individuals diet increases weight loss. Also, a fiber-rich diet reduces gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers, constipation, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids. Fibrous foods also appear to boot the body’s immune response.
Losing weight by increasing fiber intake
The National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that two out of three adults are overweight or obese. This places them at an increased risk for a variety of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. However, increasing the dietary fiber consumption in such individuals promotes weight loss. It is believed that the fiber buildup reduces calorie consumption. Further studies are needed, but the evidence for increasing dietary fiber as a viable way to lose weight is promising. Another critical component of a diet rich in dietary fiber is that it makes the individual feel fuller. The fibrous material takes up bulk within the digestive tract so reduces hunger and cravings. High fiber foods are also more energy dense which means they contain far fewer calories than other foods.
Increasing your daily dietary fiber that the ratio recommended by the US FDA will not only improve your health but prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce your likelihood of developing certain cancers, and promote healthy weight loss.
Lattimer, J. M., & Haub, M. D. (2010). Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients, 2(12), 1266-1289.