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Let’s explore why fibre, is often-overlooked and why it could be the key nutrient you are missing in your diet for weight loss.

What is fibre?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that the human body is unable to digest or absorb. It passes through the digestive system relatively intact but is said to have several health benefits.

There are two main types of dietary fibre: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This contrasts with insoluble fibre, which adds bulk to stool due to its inability to dissolve in water.

What are the benefits of fibre for weight loss?

 If fibre isn’t digested by the body, why is there so much emphasis on including it in our diets?

At the most basic level, to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Fibre itself has no fat-burning properties, however its interaction with our bodies can facilitate weight loss. There are a number of benefits to fibre-rich diets that have the potential to significantly aid in weight loss. These include:

  • Keeps you full for, longer thus reducing your appetite:

High-fibre foods can slow down digestion and nutrient absorption, promoting a feeling of fullness that could assist in weight management. Slowed digestion means prolonged fullness, which leaves individuals feeling more satiated and less likely to engage in constant snacking.

When fibre-rich foods occupy space in the stomach, it results in a sensation of fullness. This prompts the brain to signal satiety which leads to reduced appetite and the cessation of eating. It is this decrease of calorie intake that contributes to the process of weight loss.

Slower digestion also leads to a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream, which can help prevent rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. This too, helps to regulate hunger.

Soluble fibre specifically, has been shown to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. slowed absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, by soluble fibre, results in lower insulin levels. This translates to reduced fat storage, once again contributing to weight loss.

All individuals have both good and bad bacteria in the gut. Fibre acts as a source of food for the good bacteria, which then produce chemicals that can improve brain function and mood. The better our mood, the more likely we are to feel motivated about making positive changes. This makes it easier to make dietary and lifestyle changes and stick to it.

Additional benefits of fibre, beyond weight loss include:

How much fibre do I need?

 So now that we know the benefits of fibre and the role it plays in weight loss, how much fibre should we aim for?

 The World Health Organization recommends 25g of  naturally occurring dietary fibre for all adults. It is worth mentioning that this recommended value provides a general guideline and does not account for variations in weight, physical activity levels and lifestyle.

The actual amount will vary from person to person and will have to be established through a process of trial and error in collaboration with a trusted health professional.

Whilst fibre is a nutrient that should be featured in our diets, increasing fibre in one’s diet should be done gradually. If your body is not accustomed to a higher fibre intake, a sudden, drastic increase may cause unpleasant symptoms like gas and bloating.

To avoid these side effects, it is encouraged to progressively increase your fibre intake to allow your body to adjust to these new levels. Pay attention to how you feel physically as well as energetically during this adjustment and work through this under the supervision of a health professional.

This recommendation holds particularly true if you’re dealing with existing digestive concerns.

Which fibre should I be eating for weight loss?

The most common sources of fibre are fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrain foods. Since our bodies need both soluble and insoluble fibre, it is best to include a range of different sources.

What are the best sources of fibre?

Soluble fibre

  • Fruit (e.g., bananas, apples, oranges, pears, berries, figs, apricots, guavas)
  • Vegetables (e.g., okra, eggplant, peas, avocado, sweet potato, carrot, turnip, brussels sprouts, broccoli, plantain, yam, cassava, mielies)
  • Legumes and pulses (e.g., kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, dhal, masala makhana)
  • Oats and other breakfast cereals
  • Psyllium husk

Insoluble fibre

  • Fruit (with skin and seeds)
  • Vegetables (with skin and seeds)
  • Wholegrains (e.g., breads, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, barley)
  • Nuts and seeds (e.g., almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, chia, groundnuts)
  • Wheat and rice bran

Should I be getting my fibre from supplements or wholefoods? 

Many individuals facing challenges in meeting their dietary fibre needs often resort to supplements, particularly as a means to regulate bowel movements. Whilst supplements don’t pose significant problems, they carry less fibre than natural fibre obtained from whole foods. Moreover, whole foods offer additional nutrients that supplements lack.

As such, it’s strongly recommended to prioritize whole food sources for obtaining fibre, rather than relying on supplements. In instances where consuming fibre-rich foods is difficult due to allergies or intolerances, supplements could be a viable alternative.

What are some easy ways to increase fibre in your diet?

  • Add fibre to your breakfast
    1. Opt for overnight oats
    2. Sprinkle a teaspoon of linseed or psyllium husk on your breakfast cereal
  • Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain varieties

  • Add legumes to your diet
    1. Eat dhal (lentil curry) once a week
    2. Add chickpeas or beans to salad
  • Snack on fibre-rich foods
    1. Roasted chickpeas/chana
    2. Nuts (groundnuts, almonds)
    3. Seeds
  • Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet
    1. Snack on apples, figs, berries and apricots
    2. Keep the skins on vegetable like potato, sweet potato
    3. Make sure to have vegetables at every meal (side salad, broccoli, carrots, yam, cassava, bitter gourd)

Sample meal plan of a High-fibre diet for Weight Loss

Breakfast: 2x Wholegrain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana + 1 cup Coffee/Tea

Snack: ¾ cup Roasted chickpeas with African spices OR ¾ cup Chevro with fava beans and chickpeas

Lunch: Jollof Rice with Spinach and Grilled Chicken OR Chickpea Curry (Chana Masala) with Brown Rice

Snack: ¾ cup Roasted Plantain Chips OR ¾ cup Masala popcorn

Dinner: Lentil Dal with Roti and Vegetable Curry OR Egusi Soup with Fufu

Snack: ½ cup Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries and sprinkle of nuts

If you are struggling to make changes to your diet and need some inspiration, why not check out our 45 page healthy recipe collection, that is filled with high fibre recipes to get you started or if you would like a personalised plan or work with us 1:1 click here.

Written by: Husnaa Khan (APD,AN)

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