It seems like every month, the diet industry claims there is a new, easy way to shed pounds fast, whether it’s Keto, fasting or a juice cleanse. The reality is that none of these methods results in sustainable, long-term weight loss. You may see success for several weeks or months, but ultimately, most people gain back the weight they’ve lost, if not more. So, what exactly is the key to lifelong weight management?
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition, fiber has been shown to benefit almost every population, disease state and weight loss goal.
When most people think of fiber, the first thought is regularity in the bathroom. While this is a positive benefit of the nutrient, fiber is so much more than a trip to the toilet. Fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate, helps our bodies regulate a wide variety of processes, including hunger and blood sugar. It has been shown to lower the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and a multitude of gastrointestinal problems, such as colorectal cancer.
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There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with water, therefore slowing down digestion and passage of food. This type of fiber is what’s thought to help control blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Many studies have shown that the addition or increase of dietary fiber aids in promoting satiation and altering the secretion of gut hormones, therefore increasing the success of long-term weight loss. The Dietary Guidelines for 2020-2025 recommend women consume 25 grams of fiber daily and men consume 30 grams. It’s also known that roughly 90% of Americans do not meet these goals and fall short in their dietary fiber consumption, which may partially explain the obesity epidemic we have in the United States.
Individuals who make it a point to hit their fiber goals are more likely to achieve their weight loss goals and maintain that weight loss.
If fiber is so great, why aren’t we eating more of it? The typical American diet is one that contains little fiber and excessively processed foods. Fiber is naturally found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains — three food groups that are usually ignored in the Western diet pattern.
So, how can we incorporate more fiber-filled foods to aid in weight management? Those who tend to succeed in their weight loss journeys make an active decision to include fiber at every meal and snack. Skip the white bread and reach for the hearty whole-grain bread, or opt for a side salad instead of fries at the restaurant. Rather than a sugar-packed bowl of cereal in the morning, mix up some plain oatmeal with berries. It’s these small changes in our diets that lead to lifelong success.
Typically, high-fiber foods are going to more plant-based in nature. Raspberries, avocados, oats and almonds are packed full of dietary fiber that can aid our weight loss journey. It is important to note, we must practice proper portion control when it comes to these foods. While high-fiber foods will keep us fuller for longer, eating large bags of almonds every day will not result in weight loss.
The takeaway theme when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating is balance. If we eat these nutritious, high-fiber foods 80% of the time, we can enjoy our favorite foods in moderation. A diet designed to set you up for failure is one to avoid, so make sure to include fiber at every meal and snack.
Erin Redgrave is a dietitian in diabetes and nutrition education at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.