Feel Fuller Faster with Fiber
Are you hungry? That is a loaded question. Dietary fiber, lean proteins and condiment-size additions of fat may help control true physical hunger. Recall that hunger is the true need for fuel and nourishment, while appetite is drive to eat due to some emotional or visual cue. Are you filling fast enough to avoid overeating? Check out these simple strategies!
Carbs and Fiber
Processed carbohydrates (like juice or white bread) don’t help sustain a feeling of comfortable fullness because they lack fiber. Dietary fiber is found naturally in all plants and still exists in your food if it has not been over-processed. Fiber works like a sponge. After you eat fiber is absorbs water and puffs up, taking space in your stomach and giving you a feeling of fullness. This natural effect lasts a while during the digestive process since fiber doesn’t totally break down. Result? As long as you are hydrated, fiber makes you feel fuller faster (and this feeling lasts a while)! Getting fuller faster means you stop eating sooner… You eat less calories… Mission accomplished!
How much fiber should you eat?
Adult women should attempt to eat 25 grams of dietary fiber daily. Men should attempt to eat up to 38 gms daily. Move slowly toward this level so your body can adjust to the fiber in your system. Too much fiber too soon can leave you gassy, crampy and crabby!
Increase your fluid intake as you add fiber to your diet since the two work in tandem. Extra fiber without extra fluid is like mixing cement (in a constipation kind of way).
Where do I find dietary fiber information?
Food labels will give you the fiber information per serving. A good fiber source will provide 3 grams or more fiber per serving. If your food selection does not have a label (as will be the case with whole foods), here is a general guide to fiber content by food group:
Fresh Vegetables and Whole Fruit: 2 to 3 grams dietary fiber per serving
Breads and Grains: Varies. Processed forms will have less than 2, while some 100% whole grain versions will have more than 6 grams dietary fiber per serving. Some cereals can provide up to 10 grams per serving.
Nuts and Seeds: 3 grams dietary fiber per ounce/2 Tablespoons
Beans: 6 grams dietary fiber per ½ cup serving
Dairy: naturally there is no fiber in milk or yogurt, but there are brands now available that have added fiber.
Meat (fish, beef, poultry, etc.) has no dietary fiber. Fiber is only found in plants.
Fats and Oils have no dietary fiber.
Won’t adding fiber add calories?
The beauty of fiber is that is does not break down to provide calories. Choose foods you would normally eat, just make sure your choice includes dietary fiber. Instead of a 100 calorie slice of fiber-free bread, choose a 100 calories slice of fiber-full bread. Of course if you just start eating extra food for fiber you will take in excess calories. It is easy to eat a calorie-controlled diet and take in adequate dietary fiber once you know where to find the fiber. Also remember that the fiber will be filling, so the calorie controlling is easier!
Will fiber interfere with my workouts?
Your body can get used to more fiber in your diet, but ease your way in. You may find that fiber early in the day will help “clean you out” which could actually enhance your workout. Fiber takes a few hours to process, so if fiber before an upcoming workout seems risky, plan for fiber in your meals and snacks after the workout. Fiber in smaller doses throughout the day may be a good way to be more tolerant to any side effects. Or, you could just not worry about fiber and be fueled by “jet propulsion”!
Can I use Fiber Supplements?
Why take a supplement if you can accomplish your fiber goal with food and the nutrients that come in the food? Leave the supplements as a last resort. You need food nutrients.
If your goal is to tackle hunger…try fiber! In addition, check out these ideas on how protein and fat can impact your hunger.
Protein and Hunger
Adequate dietary protein (beans, nuts, seeds, higher protein grains like quinoa, nonfat milk and yogurt, cheese and lean meats) at meals and snacks may help sustain a comfortable feeling of fullness. Excess protein is often accompanied by excess fat—which adds to an uncomfortable feeling of fullness. Try adding protein to your carb-only snacks and meals.
Fat and Hunger
A small amount of fat can add to a comfortable and lasting feeling of fullness. If you cut back too much on fat you may get hungry sooner than you plan. And without a plan you could find yourself searching for snacks on impulse. Impulsive eating never works unless you’ve learned to reach for a radish instead of the candy dish.
Healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olives are great compliments to your meal. Even small amounts of fat in cheese can contribute to your fullness level with a bit of nutrition as a bonus. Just keep these fat helpers in “condiment” size portions to keep your calories in check.
Your turn! How can you adjust your food intake to enhance a natural feeling of fullness?
Email Jan with your questions about fiber and fullness!