If you want to lose a few pounds before bikini-season hits, there's one thing you should definitely be eating more of: fibre! Why? This plant-based roughage is a weight-loss wonder. But fear not: you don't need to resort to eating old-school oat bran cereal or adding a fibre supplement to your smoothie in order to up your fibre intake. Some of the most delicious foods, such as raspberries, strawberries, chickpeas, edamame, and sweet potatoes, are also some of the highest in fibre. Read on to get the lowdown on how fibre can help you shed pounds, find out how much fibre you should be eating, and get 10 yummy fibre-rich meal and snack ideas.
How much fibre do I need?
We all know most Americans aren't eating enough fibre, but how much do you really need? The USDA recommends you eat 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories. So, if you are eating a 2,000-calorie diet, you need about 28 grams of fibre per day. Most Americans get about half that, since the Standard American Diet is high is processed foods and animal fats that are devoid of fibre. In order to get more fibre, you need to eat more plant foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources.
What's the difference between insoluble and soluble fibre?
While nutritional labels don't discern between insoluble and soluble fibre, they come from different sources, and act differently in the body, too.
Insoluble fiber is found in the peels, skins, or husks of plant-based foods. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and so it passes quickly through your body, mostly intact, promoting regularity, as long as you have adequate water intake.
Soluble fibre comes from the "flesh" or innards of plant-based foods. For example, when you eat an apple, the skin of the apple is insoluble fibre, while the flesh of the apple is soluble fibre. Soluble fibre does dissolve in water. Once ingested, it forms a gel-like substance in your small intestines that mixes with other partially digested foods.
If you focus on eating more whole plant foods, you don't need to be overly mindful of the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre, since they are usually packaged together in whole foods such as brown rice, corn, beans, chickpeas, grapes, apples, raspberries, and celery.
What makes fiber such a weight-loss wonder?
Fiber-rich foods are important for weight loss for two reasons:
1. Fiber-rich foods make you feel satisfied but are naturally low in calories.
The math on weight loss is actually pretty simple. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Sounds easy, right? The problem is that in order to feel "full," receptors in your stomach also require a certain amount of food. Here's where insoluble fibre, in particular, plays an important role: while insoluble fibre is a carbohydrate, your body can't digest it as well as it digests other carbs, sugars, fats, and proteins, so it basically helps create a sensation of satiety by filling you up, but then passes right through you without adding to the net calories you are eating.
2. Fibre helps regulate blood sugar levels, which can curb overeating.
When soluble fibre forms its gel-like substance and mixes with other foods in your small intestines, it can help "trap" sugars and fats, and slow their absorption, according to the National Fibre Council; therefore, insoluble fibres can further aid weight loss by stabilising blood sugar levels, which can curb overeating and prevent your body from storing excess fat.
10 tasty high-fiber snack and meal ideas:
- 1 large apple (5.4 grams) + 2 tablespoons almond butter (3.2 grams) = 8.6 grams fibre
- 75 grams steamed edamame, in pods (5.7 grams) + sea salt = 5.7 grams fibre
- 70 grams Brazil nuts = 5 grams fibre
- 3 celery stalks (3 grams) + 120 grams hummus (4.7 grams) = 7.7 grams fibre
- 185 grams refreshing quinoa salad = 10 grams fibre
- 1 half avocado (4.6 grams) with 1 slice sprouted whole wheat toast (2.2 grams) = 6.8 grams fibre
- 234 grams quick oatmeal (8.2 grams) + 120 grams raspberries (8 grams) + 60 grams slivered almonds (6.75 grams) = 22.95 grams fibre
- 2 black bean toasted corn tacos = 14 grams fibre
- 140 grams cooked whole wheat spaghetti (5.9 grams) + 70 grams cooked kale (2.6) + 90 grams white beans (9.3) = 17.8 grams fibre
- 290 grams curried red lentil soup = 13 grams fibre
Nutritional Information Source: US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory