F is for Fiber
With the popularity of fad diets low in carbohydrates, nutrition experts and health professionals are concerned with the F word. Not fat. FIBER.
When you drastically reduce a macronutrient from your diet (i.e. carbohydrate), which is a major source of dietary fiber, the consequences are not always pretty. A major study published in JAMA found that diets too high in carbohydrates (70% or more) or too low (below 40%), the risk for all-cause mortality went up. The researchers noted that the lowest mortality was seen with a carbohydrate intake of 50-55% of calories, which is similar to the US Dietary Guidelines. 1
Obviously, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Comparing apples to Skittles is not the same. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the WHY behind the advice to eat more fiber in your diet. With so many people trying to prevent (or fight) the COVID15, we’ll start with weight loss.
Fiber intake and weight loss:
The fiber found in plant-based foods has been found to have a big impact on weight loss. Results from the DPP (Diabetes Prevention Program), which looked at Metformin use, lifestyle intervention, and placebo found that subjects’ baseline weight was negatively associated with carbohydrate intake, specifically fiber. As weight loss aids in the prevention of diabetes, any dietary components found beneficial are encouraged. 2
A more recent study, appropriately dubbed “POUNDS” (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) evaluated calorie restriction and macronutrient composition in obese adults. In 345 subjects, those consuming a higher fiber diet experienced better weight loss in addition to adherence to the dietary prescription. Sustainability of diet modifications is key in long term weight loss success. 3
In a study of African American women, fiber consumption was negatively associated with BMI after an 18-month weight-loss intervention trial. Changes were seen at 6 months and even stronger associations seen at 18 months. 4
Where to get the most fiber:
Fiber content varies from plant to plant with different types of fiber coming from grains and vegetables versus beans, nuts, and/or fruit. Some of the highest-fiber grains include bulgur, farro, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta, which are all part of the Mediterranean diet. Other high fiber foods include raspberries, pears, blueberries, and other fruit. We’ll discuss other fiber sources throughout this series.
Tips on calorie control when adding fiber
If you’re going to add more fiber to your diet to aid in weight loss, you’ll still need to control calories. A bowl of rolled oats is great, but if you’re adding butter and brown sugar, you might be negating the positive effects. Below are a few ideas to control calories.
- Try ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla in oats instead of butter and sugar.
- Season grains with dried herbs, vegetable or chicken broth, garlic, or onions over oil, butter, or cheese.
- Add more vegetables to the dish! These add color, flavor, texture, and more nutrition.
- Add beans to your salad- a half-cup serving boosts the fiber of your meal by 6 grams, which is nearly 25% of the Daily Value.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
- Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2018;3(9):e419-e428.
- Sylvetsky AC, Edelstein SL, Walford G, et al. A High-Carbohydrate, High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Results in Weight Loss among Adults at High Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr. 2017;147(11):2060-2066.
- Miketinas DC, Bray GA, Beyl RA, Ryan DH, Sacks FM, Champagne CM. Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study. J Nutr. 2019;149(10):1742-1748.
- Buscemi J, Pugach O, Springfield S, et al. Associations between fiber intake and Body Mass Index (BMI) among African-American women participating in a randomized weight loss and maintenance trial. Eat Behav. 2018;29:48-53.