Want to Lose Weight? Eat More Fiber.
Updated: Jan 24
Most people are aware of the role that dietary fiber plays in keeping us regular. However, fiber does much more than that. Fiber helps to keep us satiated, helps to keep our gut flora healthy and acts as a fat and carbohydrate blocker.
Fiber is an interesting nutrient. It falls into two categories; soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both types of fiber benefit our bodies in different ways. However, that is for another article. What all fiber has in common is that our body can’t really digest it, which is what makes it interesting. We can’t digest it, but it is a macronutrient, meaning that we need large quantities of it in our diet. So, what does it do for us?
Our bodies rely on healthy bacteria that live in our digestive systems. These “good gut bacteria” need to eat in order to thrive and multiply. Our gut bacteria eat the fiber in our digestive system. When the bacteria eat the fiber, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are created. These SCFA’s are absorbed into our blood stream from the colon and travel to our brain. SCFA’s have many positive effects, including assisting in immune function, inflammation and even our mental health (which can be such an important factor in weight gain because many people turn to food when their mental health is suffering). In addition, and more relevant to weight control, SCFA’s play a role in modulating our appetite, metabolism and body fat.
Moreover, Fiber is helpful when trying to lose weight because fiber traps sugars and acts as a fat and carb blocker!
Studies have demonstrated this. In one study, a group of people were fed white bread with butter, while a second group was fed whole-wheat bread with butter. The stool samples from the whole-wheat bread group contained twice as much fat as that of the whole-wheat bread group! That means that your body absorbs more calories from the fat contained in food when the food is not eaten with fiber!
Fiber traps some of the calories and those calories pass through you with the fiber. The same applies to the calories from starch. In fact, a research paper, titled Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation (authored by Nancy C. Howarth, M.Sc, Edward Saltzman, M.D., Susan B. Roberts, Ph D), found that study subjects randomized to consume higher-fiber diets lost more weight, even when caloric intake was fixed!
Producing Hunger Slaying Hormones
One of the reasons for this result may be the effect that the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) have on reducing our appetites. The SCFA stimulate the production of a hormone, called Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that reduces appetite and weight over the long term.
At the other end of the spectrum is a hormone, called Ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. When levels of Ghrelin rise in our bodies, we are driven to eat. As time passes after eating, our Ghrelin levels start to rise. That leads to another amazing thing that fiber does. In a clinical trial (published by Joshua Tarini & Thomas M S Wolever), people were fed twenty-four grams of fiber. Their Ghrelin levels were measured four hours later. The subject’s Ghrelin levels were suppressed! In fact, their Ghrelin levels were as low as they would have been had they just eaten 500 calories of food 4 hours earlier!
All of this adds up to one thing. If you want to lose weight, find ways to include more fiber in your diet everyday! Dietary fiber is found in plant-based foods. The most fiber rich foods are whole grains and legumes (dried or canned beans, split peas, chickpeas and lentils).
Jordan Hoffman is the founder of Paradigm Weight Loss, specializing in lifelong weight loss results for men. He holds a PN1 nutritional coaching certification from Precision Nutrition, as well as a BCOMM and MBA. He has been maintaining a 65-pound weight loss since 2006 and has worked with thousands of men, teaching them how to lose weight and keep it off, since 2009. For more information on how Paradigm Weight Loss can help you to gain control of your eating and experience a lifetime of healthy weight stabilization, contact Paradigm Weight Loss at firstname.lastname@example.org.