If the phrase “fibre in your diet” calls to mind images of your mom popping Metamucil tablets, we don’t blame you — fibre is basically the Golden Girls of the nutrient world. However, it’s also an essential for weight loss.
Fibre is about as close to a magic weight loss ingredient as you can get, says Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting enough of it, she says. Here’s everything to know about fibre intake for weight loss.
How much fibre should you eat per day?
The average woman should be getting 25 grams of fibre per day, according to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines. That’s the amount in seven apples, or 12 cups of broccoli, or seven and a half cups of oatmeal. But we’re going to take a wild guess that you’re not eating that many apples.
How does fibre help you lose weight?
Getting an adequate amount of that nutrient through whole foods (not fibre supplements, more on that later) keeps you fuller longer because fibre digests much slower than simple carbs. And the more full and satisfied you feel after eating healthy, fibre-filled foods, the less tempting those cookies in the break room will be after lunch, explains Gans.
Another bonus that comes with packing fibre into your diet is that healthy, weight-loss friendly foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, are already full of the stuff, says Gans. So by aiming to meet your fibre quota, rather than counting calories, you’ll likely end up making better food choices overall, she says.
What are the other health benefits of eating enough fibre?
Fibre is an essential nutrient for health, says Katie Hake, a nutritionist at Indiana University Health. “Fibre can help to reduce cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease. It can also help control blood sugar by slowing down the breakdown of food, particularly for those who live with diabetes,” she says.
On top of that, this essential part of your diet keeps your digestive system trucking along, so you won’t be bloated or constipated. (*Insert poop emoji here.*) How exactly does fibre do that? It depends on the kind you’re consuming.
There are three kinds of fibre: soluble, insoluble, and fermented. The first two aid digestion, but each type has a different role. “Soluble fibre, from oats, nuts, and seeds, acts as a broom to ‘sweep’ things along,” says Hake. Insoluble fibre, from things like cabbage, brown rice, and some dark leafy vegetables, on the other hand, promotes bowel movement by making your stool easier to pass. “[It’s] non-digestible and adds bulk to the stool, which can aid in moving things along,” says Hake.
Then, there’s fermentable fibre, which you can get from foods like beans and garlic. “Fermentable” means the fiber holds an ability to promote growth of good bacteria in the gut, similar to probiotics, says Hake.
How can I eat 25 grams of fibre a day?
Since pounding six apples at the end of your day to meet your fibre goal isn’t appetizing, the best strategy is to spread your servings out across all your meals and snacks for the day, says Gans.
“All of your meals should include at least eight grams of fibre,” she says. To hit the 25 grams per day goal, snack on a medium pear or a half an avocado, which have about six grams of fibre each, says Gans.
To ramp up your fibre intake at each meal, start including oatmeal, which has four grams per cup, quinoa (five grams per cup), and barley (eight grams per 1/4 cup) into your menu. To up the ante even further, get friendly with fibre-filled mix-ins like chia seeds (10 grams per ounce), and chickpeas (about nine grams per 1/4 cup). Above all, remember that fibre is your friend.
What foods are highest in fibre?
If you need more ideas of high-fibre foods you can add to your daily diet, there are plenty of other options. Here’s a list of foods you can try, according to Hake.
- Lentils (7.8 g of fiber per half cup): “Lentils can be a great source of protein for lentil tacos, chili, or stuffed in cooked peppers,” she says.
- High-fibre bran cereal (9.1 grams of fibre per half cup): “It’s an easy food to add to yoghurt or eat for breakfast to help keep you full for a busy day ahead,” Hake says.
- White beans (9.6 grams of fibre per half cup, cooked): Hake notes that white beans are easy to add to a soup or salad for an added fibre boost.
- Black beans (7.7 grams of fibre per half cup, cooked): “These make a great base for all kinds of meals and add additional fibre,” she says.
- Artichokes (7.2 grams of fibre per half cup, cooked): Try adding artichokes to a salad or on top of homemade pizza for a twist.
Can you eat too much fibre — and what happens if you do?
It is possible to have too much fibre, especially if you’re incorporating supplements into your diet or if you consume in excess of the dietary guideline limit of 25 grams a day. If you’ve had too much, you’ll feel it. “Consuming an excess of the dietary guidelines can cause gas, bloating, discomfort, nausea, and even constipation,” says Hake.
Again, the best way to avoid going overboard is to avoid fibre supplements. (Tip: It’s also better to get fibre from real foods because it encourages you to eat more nutritious options, which you might not if you rely on supps — not ideal for weight loss.)
If you’re just beginning to monitor and up your fibre intake, Hake suggests increasing gradually to allow your body time to adjust and minimize symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can also help reduce any likelihood of stomach aches from upping your daily fibre.
The bottom line: Fibre is a crucial nutrient for weight loss, and the average woman needs 25 grams per day, which can be spread out across your meals and snacks.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com