Fiber Power

Last week Sally Squires of The Washington Post explained that eating lots of plant matter and less animal products is a good way to keep weight in check. She referred to the term “energy density” which is used to describe foods puffed up with air or filled with fiber and water that can help you feel full on fewer calories. Dr. Fuhrman calls this caloric density. In case you missed it, here’s his definition from Eat to Live:
Because meats, dairy, and oils are so dense in calories, it is practically impossible for us to eat them without consuming an excess of calories. These calorie-rich foods can pile up a huge number of calories way before our stomachs are full and our hunger satisfied. However, eating foods higher in nutrients and fiber and lower in calories allows us to become satiated without consuming excess calories.


When subjects eating foods low in caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, are compared with those consuming foods richer in calories, those on meal plans with higher calorie concentrations were found to consume twice as many calories per day in order to satisfy their hunger.1
Yesterday Squires talked a little more about the importance of dietary fiber. In her report, entitled Building a Taste for Bulk, she examines studies that link increased consumption of fiber with weight-control and weight-loss. Take a look:
University of Rhode Island researchers reported recently that women who ate fiber-rich, whole-grain cereals did better in controlling their calories during a three-month study than did participants who ate less fiber-full fare. Plus, those who ate high-fiber cereal also wound up consuming more of other essential nutrients, especially vitamin B6 and magnesium, the team reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


This isn't the first study to find weight benefits in eating high-fiber foods. In 2004, Harvard School of Medicine researchers reported high-fiber diets helped women maintain their weight during a 12-year study of 75,000 nurses.
All this makes sense to me. Even as a layman I get it—fiber-full foods like fruits and vegetables take up more space in our stomachs than do equal size portions of foods like steak and oil.

You might also want to check out this post Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables. It’ll show you just how poorly an equal portion of sirloin matches up nutritionally against broccoli, Romaine lettuce, and kale. The data shouldn’t surprise you, especially in regard to fiber.

Now, reports like this usually fire up the low-carbers—“Eating all those things that grow on trees are full of carbs! Don’t do it!” But take a look at this post and you’ll see Dr. Fuhrman believes the right kind of carbohydrates are essential to our bodies and actually encourage weight loss.




1. Duncan, K. 1983. The effects on high- and low-energy-density diets of satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and non-obese subjects. Am. J. Clin. Nutri. 37: 73.
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