How does dietary fiber work its magic to help with weight loss? Which type of fiber helps to slow down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal, which includes carbohydrates? It has also been suggested that a high fiber intake improves your body's sensitivity to insulin which could mean weight loss, and a reduction in the amount of medications required. Dietary fiber, which includes soluble and insoluble fiber, seems to be a vital component of blood sugar control for many diabetics.
Firstly, what is dietary fiber? Dietary fiber comes from plant foods. It is the edible part of plant cell walls that are resistant to digestive enzymes, that's why it is not absorbed by the human body. While other components of foods such as sugar, protein, fat and vitamins are broken down into simpler forms and are absorbed by the intestines, fiber passes through your digestive tract without being broken down by enzymes. Although dietary fiber is not absorbed by the body, it doesn't mean it's not of value. Fiber has a number of health benefits for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
There are two categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble, depending on how it reacts when mixed with water.
Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber dissolves when mixed in water and forms a gel-like material. It can help reduce cholesterol levels, decreasing your risk of heart disease. Because soluble fiber attracts water, it slows carbohydrate absorption and reduces the rise of sugar and insulin following your meal.
Soluble fiber is found in
- oats and oatmeal
- peas and beans
- citrus fruits
- sweet potatoes
- psyllium seeds
- brussels sprouts
Insoluble Fiber: As its name implies, insoluble fiber does not mix with water and stays in its solid form. Insoluble fiber is useful in maintaining intestinal health... it promotes the passage of material through the digestive tract, and helps produce bulk in the stool. Insoluble fiber is thought to help in lowering one's risk of colorectal cancer, constipation and hemorrhoids. In addition, insoluble fiber promotes weight loss which is one of the treatment goals for Type 2 diabetics. The amount of calories in insoluble fiber is very little or none at all and actually tends to make you feel full.
Insoluble fiber is found in cereals, vegetables, and fruits such as:
- psyllium husk
- brown rice
- flax seed
- bitter gourd
- lima beans
- brussels sprouts
- grapefruit, and
How much fiber is enough? The recommendation for non-diabetics is 14g of fiber. Fiber intake requirement may vary depending on age and gender. For diabetics, most health authorities recommend a daily intake of 20 to 50 grams. Findings of one study show that Type 2 diabetics who had 50 grams of fiber daily had better control of their blood sugar, insulin levels, and blood lipids (fats) than those who only had 24 grams of fiber each day.
There is also some evidence fiber can help cut calories by blocking the digestion of some of the fat, protein, or carbohydrates eaten at the same time. Either way, eating fiber is a good thing if you are wanting to lose weight.