Healthy diets are complicated, especially, when everyone around you is singing a different tune. To start with, there are no rules. Then, sugar was bad and now, fat is good. Dietary guidelines evolve all the time and nutritional myths crumble. As we find ourselves in the middle of a flurry, the easiest way to weight loss is something that you've always known.
A group of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School suggest a simple change in your diet is all you need to lose weight and get healthier. The f-word is back in vogue. If you have to believe them, there is just one rule - focus on fibre. They had enough reason to think it may work as previous studies indicate that it keeps you full for longer and controls metabolic markers like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Fibre is a complex carbohydrate derived from fruits, vegetables and grains. The two forms, soluble and insoluble, offer a bouquet of benefits. Soluble fibre is broken down by the body and it reduce levels of 'bad' cholesterol, and insoluble, which is not broken down, is a natural laxative and helps in removal of wastes.
The team randomly assigned 240 obese people with metabolic syndrome to two different groups. One that followed the American Heart Association (AHA) diet and the other that only focused on fibre. Those following the AHA diet decreased their daily calorie intake and also had to limit saturated fat to lose weight. The other group was simply asked to increase their fibre intake to as much as 30 grams per day. No other change was made to their lifestyle and exercise habits.
Most people were able to stick to these diets for a year with only 10% dropouts in the fibre group and 13% of those in the AHA diet group. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight. They also showed similar drops in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar and inflammation. "By changing one thing, people in the fibre group were able to improve their diet and lose weight and improve their overall markers for metabolic syndrome," says study author Dr. Yunsheng Ma.
Certain diets are restrictive in nature. Following the 'eat this, not that' approach is just too hard to do. Research shows it can actually lower willpower. Asking them to focus on a certain food, rather than what to avoid and limit, may make their goals more achievable. Adding fibre can be the first step and when followed faithfully it may make the diet more effective.
High fibre foods make you feel full on fewer calories. They take longer to digest, so psychologically, it may also be more satisfying than other foods. They require more chewing that promotes saliva and the production of stomach juices which fill you up.
"Basically soluble fibre present in foods like oats, barley, nuts, beans and in some fruits and vegetables absorbs water and forms a gel like mass during digestion. This slows down the process and helps you to feel full for longer and prevents binging on other foods," adds Weight Management Expert, Gargi Sharma.
How much fibre do I need? "As per Recommended Dietary Allowance by Institute of Medicines, per day fibre requirement for males is 38 grams and for females is 25 grams. But be careful as excessive intake of fibre can cause gas, bloating, cramps and mineral deficiency. Try to increase your daily intake of fibre gradually and drink plenty of water along with it." says Gargi.
Researchers conclude in favour of a simpler approach to weight loss that emphasizes only on an increase in fibre. According to them, it's a reasonable alternative for those who do not want or are unable to make many dietary changes.