The Incredible BULK! Curb Appetite, Boost Health with a High Fiber Plant-Based Diet
Every year Americans spend 30 billion dollars on vitamin and herbal supplements hoping to boost their health, lose weight, and feel better. That comes to about $100 a year for every person including children in the United States for substances that are often of questionable value.
Sadly, most do not gain their hoped for health benefits.
Even sadder is the fact that so little focus is placed on the relatively inexpensive foods that add bulk to your diet and do provide clearly documented health benefits, as well as aid in weight loss. Colorful, high-fiber plant foods provide you with nutrients that curb appetite, lower inflammation, boost the healthy bacteria in your gut, and lower risk for disease.
Unfortunately, people usually only give fiber consideration when they are constipated and then they supplement just enough to get the pipes unclogged. But plant fibers provide some of the most important nutrients you can ingest.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body doesn’t have the digestive enzymes to break down and absorb. Once consumed, fiber travels through the digestive track to the colon, where trillions of bacteria can, and do digest it.
People who eat low-fiber diets are at increased risk for heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and possibly auto-immune disorders.1,2,3 In fact, low-fiber eaters have increased mortality rates for all causes.4
One reason for the increased mortality rate may be the protective anti-inflammatory affect of whole, natural fiber-rich plant foods. People who eat a diet high in meats, dairy, and eggs, and low in fibrous vegetables, fruits, beans and grains have increased blood levels of C-reactive protein, a known marker for inflammation. Inflammation around the major organs can be a trigger for the development of disease. In contrast, people who consume all or mostly plant-based diets (40 grams of fiber a day or more) have much lower levels of C-reactive protein and high levels of natural plant anti-inflammatories circulating in their blood.4
Fiber also provides health benefits for the gut. Bacteria in the lower GI tract digest fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids fuel the delicate cells that line your intestinal tract and have a tremendous impact on overall gut health. Butyrate is one of the most researched of the free fatty acids. Studies show that butyrate enhances gut function, acts as an anti-oxidant, and regulates immune function. It also helps thicken the protective mucus layer of the gut. This is important as it helps stop the absorption of harmful substances and partially digested food, helping to prevent food allergies and sensitivities. 5,6
Fiber has an impact on diabetes and weight management as well. When you eat an abundance of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, the bacteria in your gut produce hormones that increase sensitivity to insulin and decrease appetite. These hormones are critical in keeping blood sugar and weight under control.
There are about 1000 different kinds of fibers in the foods we eat. Fiber can be hard, rubbery, and tough. Think of the strings on celery or the chewy part of whole grains. Other types can be moist and gel-like, such as oatmeal, beans, and grits. The hard, stringy fibers take up a lot of space in the digestive tract. The gel-like fibers absorb water and swell, taking up even more space. Both kinds of fiber create feelings of fullness and decrease appetite which can aid in weight management.
To get a feel for how well fiber acts like an appetite suppressant, consider that all of the following are roughly equal to 175 calories:
Six Hershey Kisses
(0 grams of fiber)
One ounce of almonds (2 grams of fiber)
Three apples (10 grams of fiber)
5½ cups of air-popped popcorn (8 grams of fiber)
It is so much more satisfying and easier to stop eating after three apples or five plus cups of popcorn than after just six Hershey Kisses. Why? Fiber!
The gel-like fibers provide an additional role in weight management. These fibers slow the emptying of food from the stomach, making the digestion of a meal much longer (6 to 8 hours instead of the usual 3 to 4 hours). This slowing of digestion allows nutrients to flow into the blood stream gradually over a longer period allowing for more stable blood sugar levels and sustained energy levels.7
Unfortunately, most people average less than 15 grams of fiber intake a day. Ideal fiber intakes are between 40 to 60 grams per day. One may be tempted to purchase a fiber supplement. However, the isolated fiber in supplements don’t work as well as the whole intact fibers found in all plant foods. Supplements won’t supply you with the feeling of being full or slow down digestion—and they are expensive in comparison to fresh produce.
If you are a low-fiber eater and want to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, do so slowly. Any time you add in more or a different type of fiber, there may be some bloating and gas until your GI tract adjusts. Drinking adequate amounts of water will help your body move the fiber through the digestive tract. There are many online resources if you are looking for help with eating a high-fiber plant-based diet or looking for recipes. Try visiting some of these sites:
- ForksOverKnives.com(Offers an online, weekly
meal planner with shopping lists/recipes available)
A good rule of thumb for achieving a high-fiber diet is to follow THE HEALTHY PLATE METHOD
- Fill ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables
- ¼ of your plate with a healthy whole grain or starchy vegetable (rice, potato, quinoa, corn, sweet potatoes, etc.)
- ¼ of your plate from plant-based protein (beans, edame, tofu) or very lean, organic chicken, fish or meat.
Here is what your daily totals should look like if you are shooting for 40-60 grams of fiber a day.
- 3 to 4 servings of fruit a day (skin on), 9 to 12 grams of fiber
- 2 to 4 cups of vegetables and leafy greens a day,
6 to 9 grams of fiber
- 2 cups of starchy vegetables or whole grains a day (rice, oatmeal, corn, farro, millet, quinoa, potatoes, butternut squash, etc.), 12 to 20 grams of fiber
- 1 to 2 cups of beans a day, 14 to 28 grams of fiber
1. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6879 (Published 19 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6879 Accepted 11 November 2013
2. The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern: Mohammod Asif GRD Institute of Management and Technology, Dehradun, Uttarakhand), India
J Educ Health Promot. 2014; 3: 1. Published online 2014 Feb 21. doi: 10.4103/2277-9531.127541 PMCID: PMC3977406 PMID:
3. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in Prostate, lung, colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trail
Andrew Kunzmann, Helen Coleman, Wen Yi Haung, Cari Kitahara, Marie Cantwell, and Sonja Berndt, Center for Public Health, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland and Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Insitute, NIH, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda , MD
Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct; 102(4): 881-890
4. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systemic reviews and meta-analyses; Andrew Reynolds, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand, Dpartment of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, New Zealand
Lancet Articles Volume 393, Issue 10170, P434-445, February 02, 2019
5. Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases: Roberto Berni Caniani, Margherita Di Costanzo, Ludovica Leone, Monica Pedata, Rosaria Meli, and Antonis Califnano
World of Gastroenterol 2011 March 28: 17(12): 1519-1528
6. Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health?
Hu Liu, Ji Wang, Ting He, Sage Becker, Guolong Zhang, Defa Li, Xi Ma
Advances in Nutrition, Volume 9, issue 1, 1 January 2018 pages 21-29 https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmx009
7. A Review of Physiological Effects of Soluble and Insoluble Dietary Fibers
Perry JR and Ying W*College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Sciences, 13500 John A Merritt, Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN, USA
Received Date: Feb 18, 2016; Accepted Date: Mar 03, 2016; Published Date: Mar 14, 2016