High Fiber Diet and Fat

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 1:17pm

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

Fiber is working up quite a reputation. Medical professionals tout fiber’s ability to prevent colon cancer, optimize blood sugar control, and even help you lose weight. Knowing a little about the benefits of fiber and high-fiber food sources can actually play a major role in your weight loss efforts.

Fiber keeps you feeling full

High fiber foods slow down the digestive process and make you feel fuller for longer. This is the primary mechanism by which fiber helps control weight. When you are full from high fiber foods, you will tend to avoid overeating and excessive calorie intake at meals or later in the day.

Most foods that are high in fiber are also low in calories. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber that provide many additional nutrient benefits. Dietitians recommend that you "eat your fruit rather than drink it". This is an important concept in weight control. For example: A cup of apple juice has 120 calories and no fiber, whereas a medium apple has 80 calories and almost 4 grams of fiber. It takes longer to eat an apple than to drink a cup of juice, and the fiber in the apple will promote satiety.

Skinny people eat more fiber

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association looked at the diets of 52 overweight/obese people and compared them to 52 normal-weight people1. Results indicated that the diets of the obese group had higher amounts of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and lower amounts of carbohydrate and fiber intake. Essentially, those with higher body fat had consistently lower amounts of fiber in their diet. This data is used to further support the notion that a high fiber diet helps keep you thinner.

How much fiber should you eat?

The USDA recommends the following amounts of fiber intake per day:

  • 25 grams for women aged 19-50
  • 38 grams for men aged 19-50
  • 28 grams for pregnant women
  • 29 grams for breastfeeding women

A good rule of thumb for a child's fiber intake is to take their age and add five grams.

Eating 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day is an easy way to meet your fiber goals. Most fruits and vegetables have anywhere from 3-7 grams of fiber per serving. Adding low-fat, whole grain bread products as often as possible will also boost your fiber intake.

Increasing the fiber in your diet increases your feeling of fullness without adding too many additional calories. High fiber foods tend to be good for you: They are low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol-all of which are important components of a weight-loss diet.