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Fiber Up to Slim Down

Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H.

It's no secret that boosting your fiber intake can help you drop pounds. And while diets that banish carbs and glorify protein continue to gain notoriety, the research tells a different story. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the main difference between "normal-weight" adults and their overweight counterparts was the amount of fiber they consumed.

Although the two groups reported similar intakes of sugar, bread, dairy products and vegetables, the normal-weight subjects consumed a whopping 33 percent more dietary fiber and 43 percent more complex carbohydrates each day (per 1,000 calories) than those who were overweight or obese.

Why is fiber such a key player in the battle of the bulge?

It Swells in Your Belly and Fills You Up. "Fiber slows digestion and adds bulk to the diet," says Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., owner of One Source Nutrition, LLC, a private nutrition practice based in Southern Connecticut. "When you feel fuller longer, you're apt to snack and nibble less."

It's Low in Calories. Foods that are high in fiber are generally low in fat and calories. Cup for cup, a fiber-rich food will have much fewer calories than its low-fiber counterparts. A cup of apple juice weighs in at 117 calories and 0 grams of fiber while an apple (with skin) comes in at 74 calories and 3.4 grams of fiber. And since the body can't break down fiber, it runs right through your digestive tract -- instead of landing on your hips.

It Keeps Blood-Sugar Levels in Check. "Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing the erratic peaks and valleys that can send you on a stampede to the fridge," says Stokes. Keeping blood sugar on an even keel can also help reduce the risk of diabetes.

It Promotes Overall Health. Fiber also improves gastrointestinal health. Most fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains have a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants to boot.

Amy Paturel is a freelance writer for several publications, including Cooking Light and Health, and holds a Master of Science in Nutrition and a Master of Public Health.

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