Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Females should consume at least 25g/day and males should consume at least 38g/day. Fiber passes through the body undigested and plays a key role in blood sugar control, keeping hunger in check, and protects against certain diseases. There are two types, which I have differentiated below:
How to increase fiber intake:
Contribution to weight loss and overall health
Fiber is essential in weight loss as it adds bulk to the diet, stimulates gut hormones, decreases energy intake, and its resistance to digestion in the small intestine, which could decrease a diets metabolizable energy. The gut hormones that are stimulated induce satiety, which tells your brain, “I’m full” and results in less food consumption.
When carbohydrates are consumed, simple and complex, insulin is released from the pancreas in response to increasing blood glucose. The role of insulin is to signal the cells in the body to uptake glucose to be used as energy or be stored as liver or muscle glycogen. When we consume complex carbohydrates, typically foods higher in fiber, the less insulin that needs to be released, therefore insulin sensitivity is improved and metabolic syndrome can be prevented.
Points To Remember
You should make it a goal to read nutrition labels to look at the fiber content per serving. If you are not consuming fruits and vegetables consistently, I would recommend looking at the nutrition label of what you are consuming to get a baseline idea of what your fiber intake is currently at. If it is below the recommendation, advance yourself slowly so you don’t introduce too much fiber at once and include enough fluid to prevent GI distension and constipation.
For those with the goal of weight loss, it’s important to remember with an increase in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the likelihood of increased fiber is inevitable. With that being said, don’t get discouraged if the weight on the scale doesn’t move. Soluble fiber has a water carrying capacity that can contribute to a stagnant scale. Rest assured, you are still doing the right thing by consistent fiber intake and you have not jeopardized your weight loss endeavors.
Keep it simple and don’t put so much pressure on yourself if you miss your fiber goal for the day. A diet that consistently includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will likely meet your fiber goal for the day. Next time you are at the store, compare products based on the fiber content and choose the higher fiber food if you feel you are eating more refined grains and less plants.
If you ain’t tootin’, you ain’t doing it right!
Lattimer J.M., Haub M.D. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010;2:1266–1289. doi: 10.3390/nu2121266.