Easy fixes for losing fat with fiber.
By Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD
So, why should every man care about fiber—not the kind you wear but the kind you eat? One very important reason—particularly as you get older—is regularity. Another reason, and likely more important irrespective of age, is that fiber speeds the food through the digestive tract, allowing less fat to be absorbed by your body. Before going any further, it should be first pointed that there are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Sometimes referred to as “nature’s broom,” insoluble fiber helps move food through the digestive tract more rapidly. Because your body doesn’t have the enzymes to digest the insoluble stuff that used to be called “roughage,” the indigestible fiber provides bulk and pushes undigested food through the gut to the end.
Found in wheat bran and the peels, skins, seeds and strings of fruits and vegetables, insoluble fiber is also believed to reduce your risk of colon cancer and diverticulosis (another serious colon condition).
On the flip side, soluble fiber boosts your health by combining with water in the gut to form a gel-like substance that delays the absorption of sugars and attaches to some of the fat and cholesterol in the small intestine to prevent their absorption. If you’re trying to maintain your weight or even lose some of that fat, this sticky business is a good thing, as you’ll see.
Oatmeal (not the instant kind), oat bran, flaxseed, psyllium, nuts, beans, carrots, apples, oranges, pears and berries are good sources that help reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar and help with weight management. A study conducted at Saint Joan University Hospital and reported in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants who consumed soluble fiber two or three times a day lost 10 more pounds and felt fuller after meals than those who ate little soluble fiber.
While the typical North American only eats about 15 grams of fiber a day, active guys like you need to eat 25 to 35 grams a day. While this may seem like a lot, it’s not particularly difficult to do if you include the recommended minimum of two fruit servings, three vegetable servings and six grain servings a day, with at least three of them coming from whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice.
While it’s easy to get all of the fiber you need by eating a balanced diet, fiber supplements may be considered an alternative in a pinch. “Look for a fiber supplement that provides three to five grams of fiber, and take two a day to boost your fiber intake by six to 10 grams,” suggests Robin Plotkin, a culinary and nutrition consultant and registered dietitian. Plotkin recommends taking one that contains psyllium fiber, which helps lower cholesterol when it’s part of a diet that’s low in saturated fat. “And be sure to drink plenty of fluid when you increase your fiber intake—at least eight glasses a day,” she adds.
Your Fiber All-Stars
It should be easy to hit your daily quota of fiber—25-35 grams—by mixing and and matching from this list.
Black beans, cooked
All-bran cereal, 1/2 cup
Kidney beans, cooked
Rolled oats, cooked
Whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
Grapefruit, 1/2 medium
Sweet potato, medium
White potato with skin, baked, medium
Note: All portions, unless noted otherwise, are for one cup.
Pass On Gas: As you add fiber to your diet, it’s best to do it gradually to avoid the formation of excess gas. By increasing your fiber intake by about five grams a day, your body adapts gradually and gas becomes less of a problem.