Many of us know the struggle of getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. Everywhere you turn there is advice on ways to get there: counting calories, carbs, points or cutting back on fat or sugar. You can try any number of popular diets that forbid certain foods or focus on just one specific food in large quantities. These diets may or may not work for you mostly because they can be complicated or very restrictive.
A New Path Towards Fitness
A study published in Today’s Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that something as simple as aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber each day can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and improve your body’s response to insulin just as effectively as a more complicated diet.
It’s All About The Fiber
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School compared the effectiveness of two diets with help from 240 volunteers. Half were asked to follow the American Heart Association’s (AHA) diet for preventing heart disease, in which you try to eat more fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish and lean protein but also cut back on salt, sugar, fat and alcohol. The other half were asked to follow a diet in which the only goal was to eat 30 grams or more of fiber each day.
The participants in each group averaged 19 grams of fiber a day. Both groups lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and improved their response to insulin. Those following the AHA diet lost a bit more weight (5.9 pounds) than those on the high-fiber diet (4.6 pounds), but both groups were able to maintain their weight loss for 12 months.
Fruits and Vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables are better choices than others. The fruits and non-starchy veggies that proved to be the most effective in order were:
- Fruits – blueberries, prunes, apples, pears, strawberries, grapes, avocados and grapefruit
- Veggies – tofu and other soy foods, cauliflower, summer squash, string beans, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens
Incorporating High Fiber Fruits and Vegetables into Your Diet
- Keep fruit where you can see it. You are more likely to eat fruit if it is visible.
- Explore the produce aisles and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet.
- Skip potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Choose vegetables that are packed with more nutrients and more slowly digested carbohydrates like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, greens or Brussels sprouts.
- Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads and stir fries are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on your plate.
The study results at the University of Massachusetts Medical School didn’t prove that a high-fiber diet is necessarily as good (or better) for health than the AHA diet or the highly in-vogue Mediterranean diet. What it did find is that the one simple step of consuming more fiber each day can make a difference and that encouraging healthy behaviors may be more effective than discouraging unhealthy ones.
By: Molly McBrayer, Clinical Manager, Roper St. Francis Bariatric and Metabolic Services