Most Americans consume far too little fiber, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. One potential complication of low fiber intake is excessive body fat, which commonly affects the belly. Most whole foods contain both fiber types -- soluble, which draws in water to form a gel in your digestive tract, and insoluble, which acts as a natural laxative. Because these foods are highly nutritious, upping your intake can help you slenderize while boosting your overall health.
As an undigestible carbohydrate, fiber promotes digestive function without contributing calories to your diet. Because fiber also promotes positive blood sugar control, fiber-rich foods can keep you full for longer between meals. Particularly if you tend to carry excess body fat around your middle, eating fewer calories than you burn through exercise on a routine basis will likely slenderize your belly. Because it's impossible to target and lose body fat in only one specific area, you'll also lose fat elsewhere. For these reasons, and because fiber tends to occur in nutritious foods, fiber-rich diets are associated with overall health and positive weight control. If you eat more than you burn through physical activity routinely, however, you will probably gain weight; fiber-rich foods simply make eating fewer calories easier.
Numerous studies have linked fiber intake with reduced abdominal fat. In one study, published in "Obesity" in February 2012, researchers analyzed the abdominal fat, exercise habits and diets of more than 1,000 adults for five years. For each 10 grams of fiber participants ate, their belly fat decreased by 3.7 percent. Fiber-rich diets paired with physical activity were particularly likely to result in abdominal slimness. The effectiveness of eating more fiber for fat loss varies, depending on your overall food and calorie intake, activity level and health. Gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is most likely to promote lasting results, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Recommended Intake and Food Sources
The Mayo Clinic recommends that women eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day. Emphasizing plant-derived, whole foods can help you get there. Legumes, including beans, split-peas and lentils, are top fiber sources, providing 10.4 to 16.3 grams per cooked cup. One medium artichoke provides just over 10 grams. Berries, whole-grain pasta and pearled barley provide 6 to 8 grams of fiber per serving. One serving of pears, apples, turnips, brussels sprouts or sweet corn contains between 4 and 6 grams.
If you have difficulty meeting your fiber needs through food alone, supplements may prove helpful. Although research is ongoing, supplements containing psyllium, pectin and guar gum have been linked with improved weight control, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The supplements come in tablet, powder and capsule form, and dosage varies, depending on the ingredients and type. For optimum absorption, the UMMC suggests taking fiber supplements with an 8-ounce glass of water. To prevent interactions with medications and side effects, such as gas and bloating, discuss supplements with your doctor prior to use. Your doctor or dietitian can also help determine your ideal dosage, based on your health history and lifestyle habits.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight: Losing Weight
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- Obesity: Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
- Mayo Clinic: High-Fiber Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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