Always hungry? Research shows that filling up on foods with fiber can boost your health, keep you from overeating, and help you lose weight.
By Sharlene K. Johnson
How Fiber Works
A few years ago, it was the f-word that no one wanted to use. Today, it’s plastered all over packages at the supermarket. (That’s fiber, people, fiber.) Last year, manufacturers introduced more than 1,500 high-fiber, whole-grain products — an increase of 121 percent since 2005. Now we have high-fiber English muffins and even whole-bean chocolate bars.
Nutritionists’ early attempts to get Americans to embrace fiber flopped. But since then, the f-stuff has gotten some serious science behind it. Studies peg foods rich in fiber to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — and to losing weight without feeling hungry. For instance, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that women who increased their intake of high-fiber or whole-grain foods over a 12-year period were half as likely to become obese as those who decreased their consumption.
So How Does Fiber Work, Anyway?
Basically, it’s the part of plant foods — vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds — that your body can’t digest. There are two types of fiber: insoluble, which helps food pass through your digestive system, and soluble, which helps eliminate fat and lower cholesterol. Thanks to soluble fiber, sugars and fats enter your bloodstream at a slower rate, giving you a steady supply of energy. “When you eat foods that lack fiber, your blood sugar can spike quickly. Then it crashes, causing hunger and overeating,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet.
The more fiber a food has, the better. “Fiber-packed products tend to be low-cal, so you can eat a lot,” Zuckerbrot says. “Fiber makes you full, because it swells in your stomach when it absorbs liquid.”
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