Dear JJ: Fiber seems to be the buzzword for numerous health benefits and weight loss. Yet fitting more fiber into my diet can become a challenge. Any suggestions?
A study titled, "Trends in dietary fiber intake in the United States, 1999-2008," published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found the average person gets about 15 grams of fiber a day, well below the 25-38 grams recommended adequate intake for adults.
Among its numerous benefits, fiber can help you lose weight. That's because it helps slow down stomach emptying so you feel fuller longer.
Studies show fiber also suppresses your hunger hormone ghrelin and stabilizes blood sugar and insulin levels. And celebrity fitness trainer Joel Harper says getting enough fiber becomes essential to boost your metabolism.
Those are among the reasons I call fiber a magic bullet for fast, lasting fat loss. A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine supports my theory.
Researchers asked 240 participants to either eat fewer calories and follow the American Heart Association's diet or simply get more dietary fiber.
One year later, the fiber folks lost an average of 4.6 pounds, whereas the reduced-calorie group lost an average of six pounds. Impressive, considering the fiber group made no other dietary modifications.
Let's be clear. I'm not suggesting that by increasing fiber intake you can go face down in the double fudge brownies a la mode and lose weight. At the same time, this study highlights how powerful dietary fiber alone can become for fat loss.
To get those and other benefits, I want you to get 50 grams of fiber daily. Yes, 50. Gradually increase your intake five grams a week until you've met that quota. You'll discover how simple that becomes when you incorporate these five high-fiber rock stars:
1. Green veggies. Leafy and cruciferous greens are nutrient and fiber powerhouses. Whether steamed, sautéed, or raw in salads, veggies definitely fall into the "more is better" category.
2. Berries. Every one of these low-sugar impact fruits are high in fiber, but raspberries reign supreme with eight grams of fiber per cup.
3. Avocado. "There are 10 grams of fiber in a medium-sized avocado," writes Renee Jacques, "with 75 percent of that fiber being insoluble (the one that speeds up the digesting process), and the other 25 percent being soluble (responsible for making you feel 'full')."
4. Nuts and seeds. Loaded with protein, healthy fats, and hard-to-get nutrients like magnesium, nuts and seeds also provide impressive amounts of fiber. Registered dietician Jessica Crandall notes a quarter-cup of almonds offer an impressive four grams of fiber.
5. Legumes. "Legumes -- a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils -- are terrific to include in the diet," says Dr. Lisa Young. "They are rich in fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also economical and easy to store, and can be used in many dishes." In his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Dr. Jonny Bowden notes one cup of lentils packs a whopping 16 grams of fiber.
A breakfast protein shake becomes my favorite way to effortlessly increase fiber intake, which provides you steady, sustained energy all morning. Adding avocado, frozen raspberries, raw kale (you won't taste it), and freshly ground flaxseed to your protein shake can easily give you 10 to 15 grams of fiber.
Does meeting your fiber quota become a top priority for fat loss and better health? Share your favorite high-fiber food below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.
Jonny Bowden, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Massachusetts: Fair Wind, 2007).