You hear a lot about fiber in connection with losing weight. While it is not a magic cure-all for dieters, it is a pretty big weapon in the battle of the bulge. So what is it and how does it help you lose weight?
Fiber is that part of a plant that our bodies cannot digest and passes through our bodies without contributing calories. Fiber comes naturally in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water and insoluble does not. Both types of fiber are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
The difference between the two is how they react in the body. Soluble fiber, the type that dissolves, forms a sort of gel in digestive tract as is passes through, taking it with it some cholesterol and also slowing down the absorption of sugar – a healthy activity for your blood sugar levels as the less rapid pace keeps it on an even keel. Soluble fiber can be found in chia seeds, oat bran, peas and beans.
Insoluble fiber is the type that won’t dissolve in water – it just kind of hangs around. But it does have the ability to absorb water, so it ends up holding it, much like a sponge. As it travels through your intestines, it acts a lot like a sponge, too. It mops up certain types of carcinogens that cause cancer and is very helpful in getting bowel movements working again. Insoluble fiber can be found in wheat, corn, oat bran, nuts, and the skins and peels of many fruits and vegetables such as apples.
How Fiber Aids Weight Loss
So now that we know what it is and what it does, let’s get to the big question: how does fiber help you lose weight? Four words: it fills you up. For a long while. Studies show when volunteers eat 300 calorie meals with 10 grams of fiber, they stay fuller longer than if they ate 300 calorie meals with no grams of fiber. The sense of satiety comes from fiber expanding in the stomach as well as the effect it has on digestion: it slows it down, causing your stomach to empty out slower than normal, in turn making you feel hungry further on down the road than what you would normally expect. This is a big win for dieters. Eat less yet still stay fuller longer? What’s not to like about that?