If there’s one dietary component that most people don’t get enough of its fiber. Current recommendations: men should get 38 or more grams of fiber daily and women 25 grams if only that were the case. In reality, most people get only about half that amount. One of the many benefits of adding more fiber to your diet is its effect on satiety. In general, most people feel fuller and more satisfied when a meal contains more fiber.
As you may know, there are two types of fiber – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water while insoluble fiber does not. Of the two, soluble fiber is the most important from a health perspective. Diets higher in soluble fiber are linked with a lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the main benefit of insoluble fiber is it helps keep you regular by preventing constipation.
Fiber for Satiety: Are Some Types Better Than Other?
You might assume all soluble fiber curbs hunger but some sources are better than others. Research shows all forms of soluble fiber are not equal in terms of their satiety benefits. A recent review study called a meta-analysis found soluble fibers that are more viscous in nature reduce appetite and subsequent food intake more than less viscous forms of fiber.
Due to structural differences, viscous fiber interacts with the liquid environment of the digestive tract and forms a thick gel-like material that moves out of the stomach and into the intestines slowly. That’s a good thing. When food stays in your stomach longer, it sends a feedback message to your brain that your tummy is full and you appetite declines. In addition, the slow movement of food out of your stomach and into your intestines may impact appetite hormones as well.
Sounds good in theory, but does it hold true in practice? A study published in the journal Obesity Reviews and discussed on the Nutraingredients-USA website showed viscous fibers were linked with 70% reductions in food intake while non-viscous fiber reduced food consumption by only 30%. Viscous fiber consumption was also linked with modest weight loss.
Examples of Viscous Fiber for Appetite Control
Based on this study, more viscous forms of fiber are best for appetite control. Examples of this type of fiber you find naturally in foods are beta-glucans and pectin. Beta-glucan is abundant in oatmeal, barley, seaweed and some types of mushrooms including shiitake and maitake. The best sources of pectin are apples, citrus fruits and their peels, cherries, apricots and pears. It’s pectin that makes a juicy, red apple so filling.
Other sources of viscous, soluble fiber are glucomannan and psyllium seeds/powder. Psyllium seeds are derived from a species of plantain while glucomannan comes from konjac root. If you’re trying to control your appetite and lose weight, these are fibers you should add more of to your diet. Guar gum is another viscous fiber that comes from guar beans. It’s used as a thickening agent in some non-dairy milk products like almond milk and coconut milk beverages. Research shows guar gum improves blood sugar control in diabetics and lowers cholesterol in addition to its effects on appetite. Guar gum appears to be safe but can cause gas and bloating in some people.
Some online sources market fiber supplements as a weight loss aid. Soluble fiber in supplement form may be an easy way to get your fiber but research doesn’t show it works as well as getting viscous fiber naturally from food sources. One exception is glucomannan, one of the most viscous forms of soluble fiber. Some small studies show glucomannan in supplement form improves appetite control and enhances weight loss. You can use glucomannan, or konjac powder, to thicken sauces, soups, stews, and gravies in lieu of cornstarch. It has about 10 times the thickening power of cornstarch.
Other Reasons to Get More Soluble Fiber in Your Diet
For appetite control and satiety, viscous forms of soluble fiber are best. Adding more soluble fiber, in general, to your diet has health advantages. Soluble fiber modestly lowers blood cholesterol. Just as importantly, the soluble fiber that passes into your gut without being broken down serves as a food source for healthy, probiotic bacteria that make their home in your gut. These bacteria play an important role in immune health, helping to maintain a balance and prevent immune over-activation that could trigger harmful inflammation. Probiotic bacteria also aid in nutrient absorption, so you can get the full nutritional benefits of the foods you’re eating. Chemicals and acids produced by these bacteria also help to keep the lining of your intestines healthy.
Don’t forget that fruits and vegetables are a good source of soluble fiber, although the fiber in these foods is less viscous with the exception of fruits and vegetables that are high in pectin.
How to Get More Viscous Fiber in Your Diet
Other than possible side effects of gaseousness and bloating, adding more viscous, soluble fiber has benefits. Not only does it increase satiety, but viscous fiber also decreases the blood sugar response to a meal and modestly lowers cholesterol. If you slowly add it to your diet, you’re less likely to experience side effects. Here are some ways to get more of this type of fiber in your diet:
Start the day with a bowl of old-fashioned oats (good source of beta-glucan). Barley is another good source of beta-glucan and makes tasty, hot breakfast cereal. Add a little psyllium seed or powder to your breakfast cereal, especially if you suffer from constipation.
Enjoy more pectin-rich fruits as a substitute for dessert. Apples are a good source of pectin and rich in a variety of phytochemicals that have health benefits. Choose organic since apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
Use glucomannan powder to thicken soups, stews and salad dressings instead of corn starch. You can also add a small amount of glucomannan powder to baked goods. Read the directions on how to use glucomannan. It thickens very quickly.
The Bottom Line
Viscous fibers are more beneficial for satiety and appetite control than other forms of soluble fiber. In general, you can’t go wrong by adding more soluble fiber, in general, to your diet as long as you don’t increase the amount too quickly. Enjoy the many health benefits of fiber!
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