There are a number of ways to decrease belly fat— diet and exercise of course being the most influential. However, studies are finding that increased fiber consumption is a plausible avenue for reducing fat mass. The current RDI (recommended dietary intake) of fiber for women is 25-35 grams of fiber per day. To date, there haven’t been many studies looking into the amount of fiber consumed in relation to weight loss. Finally, scientists are giving more fiber a chance.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists found that increases in dietary fiber by about 6-10 grams per day were associated with decreases in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) independent of other factors. Alternately, participants who had decreased total dietary fiber had significant increases in VAT. These participants were consuming about 6 grams below average recommended fiber consumption. In this study, no other variables were related to changes in body fat or metabolic changes.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition was conducted to determine whether changes in fiber intake influence the risk of gaining weight and body fat over time. A prospective cohort design was used and 252 women completed baseline and follow-up assessments 20 months apart. Across the 20 months, almost all of the women gained weight and fat. For each 1-gram increase in total fiber consumed, however, weight decreased by 0.25 kg and fat decreased by 0.25 percentage points. Both soluble and insoluble fiber was compared with no significant differences in results. This study concluded that increasing dietary fiber significantly reduces the risk of gaining weight and fat in women.
Fiber’s influence on weight reduction or prevention of weight gain may very well occur through reducing calorie intake over time, because fiber makes you feel full quickly. However, that conclusion is not set in stone. Either way, adding more food to your diet is certainly not a bad thing if it consists of fibrous foods. Making room for more fiber in your diet is as simple as adding another 6 grams of fiber or one serving of beans or whole grains to your daily meal plan. That’s not an unrealistic goal for anyone.
Anyone interested in boosting dietary fiber intake will have to take a serious look at food labels. Picking up a loaf of bread because it says “whole wheat” on the package is not enough. And just because it’s brown doesn’t mean it’s healthy and loaded up with more fiber. What you should do instead is look at the nutrition facts label to see how many grams of fiber per serving the food actually contains. Your goal is more along the lines of 35-40 grams of fiber per day— split between five meals— that would allow for 6-8 grams of fiber per meal. Most fruits and vegetables contain around 3-7 grams of fiber per serving. Again, this is as simple as adding an apple to your mid-afternoon snack or some berries to your morning oatmeal. Try incorporating more fiber into your diet for four weeks. If you don’t feel any healthier or notice any changes, by all means go back to your old ways. But eating more, in my opinion, is never a bad thing.
5 Quick Tips
Choosing High-Fiber Foods
1. Go with whole fruit instead of juice. Whole fruits and vegetables are packed with much more fiber and far fewer calories than their liquid counterparts.
2. Add fruit to your oats. It’s easy to add more fiber— liven up your hot or cold cereal with a handful of berries or sliced apples every day.
3. Read labels for total fiber per serving. Just because a food is brown or reads “whole-grain” doesn’t mean it’s packed with good-for-you fiber. Check labels for the amount of fiber per serving the food actually contains.
4. Eat more beans. Beans and legumes are healthy carbohydrate sources that are loaded with fiber. Top your brown rice with beans or make some salsa with black beans to top on your whole-wheat tortilla breakfast burrito.
5. Create your own recipes. Use high-fiber alternatives in some of your favorite recipes for an added fiber boost. Or try a new recipe— you may just like it!