We all know that healthy, clean, and fresh natural foods are key to weight loss and weight maintenance over time. Fresh, seasonal, and unprocessed foods can contribute to both disease prevention and chronic disease symptom reduction as well.
While many who consume a healthy whole-foods rich diet experience fewer chronic diseases and longer life, did you also know that fresh fruits and vegetables are full of fiber – a vital ingredient in weight loss success?
What is fiber?
To put it simply, fiber is a certain kind of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by humans. It is found in almost all plant based foods. Some fiber comes from cellulose, the indigestible plant fibers that we humans just can’t make use of, unlike other grazing animals like cows, goats, and sheep.
Fiber generally comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble.
For humans, fiber is mainly used as a bulking agent. It helps keep all part of our food, including the other nutrients, moving through our systems. Fiber ensures that our digestion system stays relatively clean and healthy.
The fiber we eat also feeds our gut bacteria, also known as gut flora, whose diet mainly consists of soluble fiber. The fiber passes through our digestive system unchanged until it reaches the friendly symbiotic gut bacteria that can turn the fiber into usable energy they use to transform the food we eat into usable nutrients in our bloodstream.
The benefits of friendly bacteria
While it may be difficult to consider that we have bacteria living inside us at all times, fortunately, these friendly gut bacteria are known have a positive effect on the body.
They produce nutrients like short-chain fatty acids that feed the cells in the colon and also reduce chronic long-term inflammation and diseases like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
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We also know that chronic inflammation plays a major role in nearly every major Western disease, including heart disease, metabolic disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Evidence is also mounting that inflammation drives both weight gain and obesity. One study of rats published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicated that inflammation occurs prior to weight gain and obesity, not after.
The bottom line is that we now know that inflammation is a precursor of almost every disease, including obesity. Fortunately, fiber consumption is known to reduce chronic inflammation.
Soluble vs. Insoluble fiber
Not all fiber works the same way in our bodies. It’s important to know the difference so that you can work to include the best types of fiber in your diet if you are looking to take advantage of the weight loss benefits.
Insoluble fiber is by far the most common by volume, and typically comes in the form of cellulose. However, in some foods, other viscous soluble fibers like pectins, β-glucans, psyllium, glucomannan and guar gum are also present.
These soluble fibers become thicker when they come into contact with water and other gastric juices. They form a thick gel-like substance that effectively “sits” in the gut and slows down the digestive process. This helps us feel fuller longer which can also help reduce our appetite and make us eat less. It also decreases the amount of time it takes for food to digest, meaning that our intestines have more time to digest and absorb important nutrients.
While all plant-based foods can reduce inflammation and also help heal conditions like leaky gut, viscous fiber of the soluble type plays an especially important role.
Benefits of a high-fiber diet and hydration
When you consume large amounts of plant-based foods you also boost your hydration. This can have an unintended bonus positive health effect on all body systems.
Whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, generally have high water content. This means they can help you maintain proper hydration each day just by eating your regular diet. In addition to drinking about two liters of water a day, adding fresh whole foods to our diets can contribute to overall hydration, ensuring our body functions at its peak.
Hydration is important for all body processes including cell repair, clean up, and restoration. A process called cellular autophagy is responsible for breaking down cells – recycling proteins and removing wastes – commonly known as “detoxing”. It’s a process made easier on the body when we are properly hydrated.
With full hydration, the body is much more efficient in removing cell waste and completing other vital processes. This can lead to faster weight loss and more effective calorie burning over time. Staying hydrated is integral to safe and efficient weight loss and can be accomplished by adding plenty of fresh plant-based foods to our daily diets.
High fiber diet and attractiveness
Plant-based foods, especially carotenoid-rich foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and dark leafy greens, can give you a healthy skin pigmentation that is scientifically proven to be more attractive than melanin sun tanning in photographic tests.
The best way to achieve this natural healthy glow is by consuming a diet of high-fiber whole plant-based fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
One study showed that a diet rich in carotenoids, the compounds that give foods their bright hues, are proven to create a healthy rich glow in the skin that is an indicator of health and fertility. This natural coloring in the skin is also known to make those that possess the healthy glow more beautiful.
Rosy cheeks and warm coloring are just another possibly unexpected side effect of a high-fiber diet rich in whole, hydrating, plant-based foods. The trick is including some of the most carotenoid-rich foods to slowly combat our unattractive bluish-grey pallor.
Whole foods or supplements?
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Because of the numerous benefits of a whole-foods plant based diet, I can definitely say that looking for whole foods sources of soluble fiber is the best way to proceed. Some of the most well-known sources of soluble fiber include:
- Legumes like soybeans, chickpeas, and peas
- Whole grains like cereals and oatmeal that still contain the germ, endosperm, and bran
- Fruit like avocados and kumquats
- Vegetables like artichokes and corn
- Flaxseeds and other nuts and seeds
Incorporating high-fiber whole foods into your diet will definitely help you feel fuller longer. They are also nutrient-dense as well – ensuring that you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to healthy eating.
While there have been a few review studies specifically on fiber supplements, the results are mixed and fairly unconvincing. One large review study found that psyllium and guar gum (both soluble, viscous fibers), are ineffective when used as weight loss supplements.
However, when it comes to definitive positive effects there is one exception. Supplemental glucomannan, a fiber extracted from the konjac root, has been shown to produce modest weight loss effects.
When a naturally high-fiber whole foods diet is combined with other weight loss boosting supplements like protein shakes, traditional green tea, and other skinny tea blends– that’s when the real magic happens.
While isolated supplements or isolated nutrients can be helpful, but it’s important to keep in mind that it is the synergistic combination of supplements and whole foods that produce the best results and long-lasting health benefits. Getting your soluble fiber from a whole foods diet is always best.