Role of Fiber in Weight Loss

Published:September 25th, 2012


Definition of Fiber

Fiber is the name given to the complex carbohydrates present in plant based foods that are not digestible in the human body, and therefore do not produce any calories on consumption. It is also sometimes known as ‘roughage’.

Foods that contain Fiber

Fiber is present only in plant based foods, and is totally absent in meats and dairy products. Following are the foods that are rich in dietary fibers:

  • Whole grains products, such as cereals and breads
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

Role of Fiber in weight loss

Dietary fiber has been proved to be extremely beneficial in people who aim to lose weight. Populations that consume diets with more fiber have a lower incidence of obesity, and are generally healthier.

Fiber helps in losing weight by the following mechanisms:

1. Devoid of Calories

Dietary fibers are totally devoid of any calories, because they cannot be digested, however they still give the feeling of satiety on consumption. Therefore fiber rich foods are very low in calories and are ideal for people on a diet.

2. Require more time to pass the digestive tract

Fiber rich foods require more time to be chewed and passed on through the stomach which gives a positive signal to the satiety centre of the brain, making us feel full, and therefore chew slower which decreases the overall intake of food, as well as reduces the frequency of in between the meal snacks.

3. Bulk formation in the stomach

Fibers have a unique characteristic of absorbing water. Hence when they are eaten, they absorb the available water in the stomach and swell up which leads to the feeling of fullness and satiety resulting in a decreased food intake and weight loss.

4. Low Glycemic Index

According to the Harvard School for Public Health, fiber rich foods have a low glycemic index, which means that they provide a low and steady stream of glucose to your body, hence reducing hunger pangs and controlling appetite.

5. Interference with the absorption of fats

Nature has provided a unique mechanism of removing fats from our body. Extra fats circulate in our blood, and are picked up by the fiber present in our food, and then removed in the stools. Absence of dietary fiber in foods thus leads to their deposition in the body as either cholesterol in the blood vessels, or as fat stores throughout the body, thus leading to obesity.

6. Association with low fat foods

Dietary fibers are naturally associated with foods that are low in fats and calories, and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, they reduce the fat intake, helping us in losing weight.

Other benefits of dietary fibers

Dietary fibers not only help control weight but also have many other health benefits. For example due to their fat absorbing quality, they reduce the incidence of heart problems, strokes and diabetes by about 30%. Similarly, they absorb different carcinogens from the intestine, leading to prevention of colon cancer. Due to their fast passage through the large intestine, they decrease the incidence of bowel problems such as constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disease. In addition, their association with foods rich in vitamins and minerals ensures that no deficiency of these nutrients occurs.

Recommended daily intake (RDI) of dietary fibers

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of dietary fibers is 30 g per day. This amount has been increased from 12-24 g previously because of the immense benefits provided by the dietary fibers. USDA guidelines suggest that 14 grams of fiber should be consumed for every thousand calories, which may be increased by individuals who want to lose more weight.






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