You’ve probably heard that in order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume (“calorie deficit“), in particular by eating more vegetables (dietary fiber), which are lower in calories than starchy foods and fats.
We’re not here to debate this issue. After all, diets are a matter of personal choice! On the other hand, we would like to spend a little time talking about the importance of dietary fiber.
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not absorbed or digested in our stomach and intestines.
So why should you eat it?
- Dietary fiber has a positive impact on digestion. It slows down the process by which food moves from your stomach to your intestines (“gastric emptying”), thereby making you feel full for longer.
- By drawing water into your stomach, dietary fiber increases the volume of your stools and prevents constipation.
- Dietary fiber promotes the growth of essential microbiomes in the stomach (“gut microbiota”).
- It slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, which helps control blood sugar levels.
Dietary fiber is present in a wide variety of foods (in different proportions), including fruits, vegetables, cereals, nuts, legumes, and more.
Soluble vs insoluble fiber
Not all dietary fiber is alike! There are two main types (soluble and insoluble), which have different effects on your body.
Examples of soluble fiber:
Fruits & vegetables, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, oats, etc. Soluble fiber forms a kind of “gel” when it comes into contact with water, slowing down the passage of food in the digestive tract and allowing for the extraction of nutrients. It is gentle on the digestive tract and recommended for people with irritable bowels or fragile intestines.
Examples of insoluble fiber:
Grains & seeds (especially whole grains), fruit & vegetable skins, leafy greens, and roots. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve – instead, it swells up as it absorbs water in your stomach and intestines. Insoluble fiber travels through the digestive tract, accelerating the passage of food through the intestines. It also helps prevent certain gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, as the harmful molecules spend less time in contact with the colon.
As you can see, both types of fiber are beneficial. One isn’t better than the other! Human beings react differently to different kinds of foods. You have to go with your own personal feeling.
Note: If you have diarrhea, try eating white rice, cooked carrots, and bananas, as these foods provide “gentler” fiber for the intestines. If you’re feeling healthy, then it’s all about balance.
Why should I eat more vegetables to lose weight?
Simply put, fiber makes you feel full. When it comes to weight loss, this means you’re a lot less likely to crave snacks that are high in salt or sugar. On top of that, fiber plays an important role in the body’s ability to absorb fats and sugars.
Important: Replacing starchy foods or fats with vegetables is not a solution! Regardless of your weight-loss goals, you should never eliminate essential nutrients from your diet (i.e., protein, carbohydrates, fats).
How much dietary fiber should I eat?
To stay healthy and slim, experts recommend incorporating more high-fiber foods into your daily diet.
The WHO recommends that adults consume 30 grams of fiber per day. For children, this recommendation is different: simply add 5 grams to the age of the child (e.g., for a 10-year-old, the daily recommendation would be 15 grams).
Note: To prevent stomach aches, increase your daily fiber intake in increments. Try to avoid going from “almost none” to 30 grams of fiber per day. You don’t want to change your diet drastically as you can end up with major intestinal issues.
Be careful not to eat too many vegetables!
Too much fiber is bad for the intestines.
Too much fiber can cause intestinal imbalance (dysbiosis), and more particularly, an excess of bacteria (microbiota). This can have unpleasant side effects, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Conclusion: Does fiber make you lose weight?
Everyone’s intestines react differently. What works for one person is not necessarily good for another.
Proper weight management is dependent upon several things, including exercise, diet, the functioning of the body, and the functioning of the hormonal system, as well as stress, emotional management skills, and sleep.
Dietary fiber is therefore not a magic solution, but just another area of improvement.
If you want to lose weight, you need to adopt a healthy and balanced diet. Download the Nutri Coach app to learn more about your nutritional needs and find recipes that help meet your goals. I also recommend combatting a sedentary lifestyle by walking more, or by practicing a regular physical activity. The Fitness Coach app can guide you.