One of the easiest ways to lose fat is to increase your fiber intake because fiber slows digestion and affects hormone response to eating, making you more satisfied. This means the more fiber you get, the fewer calories you’ll eat at your next meal, and it can help eliminate food cravings. In addition, a recent study showed that increasing fiber intake can significantly increase the rate at which the body burns fat for fuel, leading to a decrease in body fat.
This study found that by increasing fiber intake in subjects for six weeks resulted in a significant increase in fat burning as well as an increase in total body metabolism. Blood sugar management in response to a carb-filled meal was 10 percent better than at baseline, and levels of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger) were lower between meals. Following higher fiber meals, subjects felt more energized than a group that had their normal fiber intake, which was about 30 percent below the recommended amount.
Researchers suggest that eating more fiber directly affects secretion of gut hormones that regulate whether we feel active and energized or sleepy. These same hormones affect the metabolism, elevating or suppressing energy use and fat burning. The effect of fiber on metabolism is similar to how protein intake increases metabolism and enhances the release of hormones that make us “wakeful” and alert.
The effect on weight loss of increasing fiber intake is significant: In a review that included 16 energy restricted studies that tested the effect of increasing fiber intake into the “recommended range” of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories eaten showed that 4-week trials produced an average loss of 3 kg fat loss; 8-week studies produced an average loss of 5 kg body fat. In comparison to low calorie diet studies that had participants eat their normal fiber intake, increasing fiber intake to the recommended level increased fat loss by as much as 50 percent, depending on the length of the study.
Other health benefits of increasing fiber intake include better cardiovascular health, a 29 percent lower risk of developing heart disease; a 30 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, and a 62 percent lower risk of progressing from a pre-diabetic state to full-blown diabetes over a four-year period.
The issue of fiber may seem boring, but it is EXTREMELY important considering the following facts:
• Less than 5 percent of the U.S. population eats the dose of 14 g/1,000 calories recommended by the American Dietetic Association—a recommendation that is probably LOW for optimal health.
• People on high-protein diets are so commonly deficient in fiber, that one group of researchers has written that although high-protein, low-carb diets are best for body composition, they would rather see people eat a higher carbohydrate diet because it will automatically be higher in fiber. The researchers think this has a greater positive impact on cardiovascular and overall health, even if more body fat is present. For example, the rule of thumb for improving LDL cholesterol values, is that for every gram of soluble fiber added there is drop in LDL of 2.2 mg/dL
• When you eat a protein, and particularly when you eat a high-protein diet, you will experience significant oxidative stress, unless you include antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables with your protein meal. Eating fiber from fibrous vegetables and fruits will provide extra protection against oxidative stress and help prevent inflammation that increases disease risk.
• Also fiber, when combined with calcium d-glucarate, has been shown to be very effective at excreting xeno-estrogens.
Take away the understanding that increasing fiber will improve your health, body composition, and make a high-protein diet that much more beneficial. Fiber is critical for disease prevention, decreasing dangerous inflammatory markers, and can help you avoid food cravings. Eat fibrous vegetables at every meal and consider taking a rotating source of supplemental fiber—researchers suggest you need to change your fiber source every week or so because the body will adapt to it.
Anderson, J., et al, Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 2012. 67(4), 188-205.