On top of scrambling a dozen egg whites, grilling four chicken breasts, opening three cans of tuna and scheduling your pre- and post-workout supplements and shakes, fiber might be the furthest thing from your mind. But it could also be just the weight-loss edge you need. Along with providing myriad health benefits, dietary fiber can help you control hunger and lose weight.
How Does Fiber Help?
"First is the chew factor," notes Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports-medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Foods that have fiber take longer to eat.
"Second, foods that have fiber take a little longer to empty from the digestive tract, so you feel fuller longer," adds Bonci, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of the ADA's Guide to Better Digestion (2003).
"Third, foods that have soluble fiber, such as oatmeal and mature beans, help stabilize blood sugar over the day, so you don't feel as hungry," she explains.
Seems like you'd be foolish not to have fiber if you're trying to control your weight. Since fiber also helps prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other maladies, you should be screaming for fiber by now. But if you think getting more fiber means forcing down bowl after bowl of lettuce and prunes, you'll probably just be screaming. Relax -- Bonci has several painless ways for you to increase your dietary fiber.
"High-fiber cereals like All-Bran, Kashi and Raisin Bran have a lot of fiber for a small serving size. In addition to eating these cereals with milk, you can sprinkle some on top of oatmeal or yogurt, or add it to a smoothie."
Fiber counts: Raisin Bran, 1 cup, 7.7 grams; cooked oatmeal, 1 cup, 4 grams
"Dried or mature beans like kidney beans, limas and chickpeas are high in fiber. You could have bean soup or add some to vegetable soup," Bonci says. "Canned beans are quick and easy. We're talking about mature beans, though, not green beans."
Fiber count: kidney beans, canned, half-cup, 5.66 grams
"Frozen mixed vegetables have many ingredients -- corn, beans and more -- and all have fiber. Throw some into a stir-fry or spaghetti sauce," she advises. "There's no work involved."
Fiber count: mixed vegetables, half-cup, 4 grams
Nuts and seeds
"There's no dietary fiber in meat protein, but nuts and seeds have protein along with fiber, so you're killing two birds with one stone," Bonci notes.
Fiber count: peanuts, 2 ounces, 4.5 grams
Fruits are sweet sources of fiber, especially when you can eat the skin.
Fiber counts: large apple with skin, 5 grams; large banana, 3.5 grams; large orange, 4.4 grams
NOTE: It is recommended that the typical man consume 38 grams of fiber a day.
Making the Switch
Cautions: "Don't go to extremes with fiber. If you haven't been eating fiber, add it gradually, starting with one meal per day." You could change your cereal. You could add a vegetable to dinner. You could add chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to a salad.
Switch to whole foods and whole grains. That means the whole apple instead of apple juice, 100% whole-wheat bread instead of white or "wheat" bread, a potato with skin instead of instant mashed, old-fashioned oatmeal instead of sugary puffs. You don't have to eat prunes, either, although now they're called dried plums.
Fiber Fixes to Fight Hunger and Promote Health
Along with providing myriad health benefits, dietary fiber can help you control hunger and lose weight.
By Jo Ellen Krumm