Tag Archive for: weight loss

The Function of Fiber

By Noel Ugarte, MS, RD | Registered Dietitian

Let’s talk about fiber. I’m sure most of us have heard that fiber is good for us – but how? It turns out that fiber can help manage and prevent many diseases.

What is Fiber?

Fiber is plant material that our bodies cannot fully digest. This means that the only food sources of fiber are plants. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans are all excellent sources of fiber. Fiber is a functional food. This means that as fiber travels through our bodies, it does different helpful jobs. But how does undigested plant material traveling through our body help improve our health?

Type 2 Diabetes

Fiber is technically a type of carbohydrate. The great news is, as stated above, we do not have the digestive tools to break it down into sugar. Instead, our stomachs break down fiber into smaller pieces. This takes a long time for our stomachs to do. Slower digestion time means that blood sugar levels will rise at a slower rate. This is great news for people who are trying to keep blood sugar levels steady. The American Diabetes Association recommends diabetics consume adequate fiber in their diets each day to help manage diabetes.

Whole grain bread, brown rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, and potatoes with skins are all examples of high fiber carbohydrates.

Broccoli, carrots, onions, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, and celery are all examples of non-starchy vegetables. These vegetables do not raise blood sugar levels like potatoes and corn do. They are also packed with fiber!

High Cholesterol

Fiber may also help to lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels. Specifically, soluble fiber has been shown to help with this. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that softens and grows when it comes into contact with liquid. Imagine what happens when you cook rice, oats, or dried beans – they soften and grow in size! As this thick fiber travels through your gut, it grabs some cholesterol that you ate in your meal and stops it from getting absorbed into your blood.

You can get soluble fiber into your diet by eating more lentils, beans, oats, chia seeds, fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas, and vegetables such as brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes.

General Gut Health

Fiber is the main food source for the bacteria in our gut. It may not sound good to have bacteria in your gut, but in fact, these intestinal friends are necessary and help us to stay healthy. As they eat (or, rather, ferment) the fiber, they produce gas. This is why fibrous foods can sometimes cause bloating and gas! It’s important we feed them well in order to keep our gut bacteria diverse and flourishing.

According the the American Cancer Society, fiber has been linked to lowering colorectal cancer risk. It can also help to prevent polyps and diverticulitis flares. This is because the undigested plant material acts as a brush, brushing clean the lining of our intestines as it makes its way through us.

Fiber can also help regulate bowel movements. The different types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – work to change the shape and texture of our stools.  Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes thick, insoluble fiber travels unchanged throughout the body making stools more bulky in size. These two functions – viscosity and bulking – help our stools to be more regular in schedule and texture.

The great news is that most fibrous foods have a mix of both types of fiber.

Weight Loss

Higher fiber diets have been linked to weight loss. Foods that are naturally high in fiber tend to be higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Think about the difference between cheese puffs and carrots. You can eat a lot more carrots for 100 calories than cheese puffs for 100 calories. Thus, when meals are higher in fiber, you are more likely to feel fuller for longer while taking in less overall calories.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

Adult females should get about 25g fiber per day, and males should get about 38g fiber per day (or about 14g fiber per 1,000 calories per day).

If you are looking to increase your fiber intake, consider increasing your fiber intake slowly. Going from a low fiber diet to a normal fiber diet too quickly can cause abdominal pain and bloating. Try increasing intake by 5-10 grams every few days as tolerated and remember to drink plenty of water.

Take a look at some of these higher fiber foods. Which foods can you add into your diet today?

High Fiber Foods (4 grams or more)

FoodServing sizeGrams of fiber
Artichoke1 medium10.3
Beans, baked, plain1/2 cup5.2
Beans, black1/2 cup7.5
Beans, kidney, canned1/2 cup6.9
Beans, lima1/2 cup6.6
Beans, navy1/2 cup9.5
Beans, pinto1/2 cup7.7
Beans, white, canned1/2 cup6.3
Blackberries1/2 cup3.8
Bulgur1/2 cup4.1
Cereal, high fiber, bran1/2 cup4-9
Chickpeas, canned1/2 cup5.3
Lentils1/2 cup7.8
Mixed vegetables, frozen1/2 cup4
Pear1 medium5.1
Peas, green, frozen1/2 cup4.4
Peas, split1/2 cup8.2
Potato, baked with skin1 medium4.4
Potato, sweet, baked with skin1 medium4.8
Quinoa1/2 cup5
Raspberries1/2 cup4
Soybeans1/2 cup5.1
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (sources: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Resource Service. 2008. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl; accessed November 5, 2008. Nutrition Data.com: Nutrition Facts and Information, www.nutritiondata.com; accessed April 28, 2008. American Dietetic Association, Nutrition Care Manual: Constipation Nutrition Therapy, http://cms.eatright.org; accessed June 25, 2008.)

Moderate Fiber Foods (1-3 grams)

foodserving sizegrams of fiber
Banana1 medium3.1
Barley1/2 cup3
Beans, green or yellow1/2 cup2
Beets, canned1/2 cup1.5
Blueberries1/2 cup1.8
Bread, whole or cracked wheat, pumpernickel, rye1 slice2
Broccoli1/2 cup2.5
Brussels Sprouts1/2 cup2
Cabbage1/2 cup1.4
Carrots, frozen1/2 cup2.4
Carrots, raw1/2 cup1.6
Cauliflower1/2 cup2.5
Cereal, bran w/ raisins1/2 cup3.4
Cereal, wheat or oat1/2 cup2 – 4
Cherries, canned or fresh10 cherries1.4
Coconut, shredded1 oz.2.5
Corn, canned or frozen1/2 cup2.1
Cornbread2″x2″ piece1.4
Crackers, whole wheat4 crackers1.7
Cranberries1/2 cup2.6
Dates, dried5 dates3.3
Eggplant1/2 cup1.3
English muffin1 english muffin2
Figs, medium1 fig1.9
Fruit cocktail, canned1/2 cup1.2
Grapefruit1/2 cup1.4
Greens, such as turnips, beets, collards1/2 cup1.6-3.2
Kale, cooked1/2 cup1.3
Kiwi1 medium2.3
Melon1 cup1.4
Muffin, oat bran2 oz.2.7
Nuts, almonds1 oz.3.5
Nuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts1 oz.2-3
Oat bran1/2 cup2.3
Oatmeal1/2 cup2
Okra1/2 cup2
Orange, 2 1/2″1 orange3.1
Papaya1/2 papaya2.8
Peaches, fresh or canned1 fresh or 1/2 cup canned1.5
Peanuts1 oz.1 oz.
Pears, canned1/2 cup1/2 cup
Peas, green, canned1/2 cup1/2 cup
Pineapple, fresh1/2 cup1.1
Plum, 2″1 plum1
Popcorn, air-popped1 cup1.2
Prune juice1/2 cup1.3
Prunes5 prunes3.5
Pumpkin, canned1/2 cup3.6
Raisins, seedless1/4 cup1.4
Rice, brown or wild1/2 cup1.8
Sauerkraut, canned1/2 cup3.4
Seeds, sunflower or pumpkin kernels1/4 cup1.1
Spaghetti, whole wheat1/2 cup3.2
Spinach, canned1/2 cup2.6
Spinach, frozen1/2 cup3.5
Squash, all varieties1/2 cup2.9
Strawberries1/2 cup1.7
Tangerine1 tangerine1.5
Tomato sauce, spaghetti or marinara1/2 cup3..3
Tomatoes, raw1 medium1.5
Tortilla, corn, 6″1 tortilla1.6
Veggie or soy patty1 patty3.4
Wheat germ2 tbsp.1.7
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (sources: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Resource Service. 2008. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl; accessed November 5, 2008. Nutrition Data.com: Nutrition Facts and Information, www.nutritiondata.com; accessed April 28, 2008. American Dietetic Association, Nutrition Care Manual: Constipation Nutrition Therapy, http://cms.eatright.org; accessed June 25, 2008.)

We’re Here to Help

Learning the ins and outs of a healthy diet can be tricky. Whether you’re just getting started or need a refresher, NOAH nutrition educators are here to guide and support you in living your healthiest life. For more information on nutrition services at NOAH, visit our website, or call 480-882-4545.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity

Mechanisms of Dietary Fiber – Fiber Facts

Types of Carbohydrates | ADA (diabetes.org)

Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber | American Heart Association

10 Bright Ideas for Weight Loss

By Kahti Paydar, RDN | Registered Dietician

Are you finding yourself wanting to lose weight?  Do you feel your weight loss New Year’s resolution got off to a late start?  Believe it or not, there’s still time to achieve your health goals!  Make small, gradual, and realistic changes that will build upon one another, creating a healthier future.  Start today by reviewing these strategies to help you control your weight:

1. Think “choose well” not “diet.”

Instead of trying to starve yourself, choose foods that allow you to fill up on fewer calories.  These are foods that are:

  • Minimally processed
  • High in fiber
  • Low in fat and sugar

Examples include fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains such as barley, oatmeal, buckwheat bulgur (cracked wheat), quinoa, millet, wild rice and brown rice and legumes for protein. Always pick leaner choices such as white breast meat of poultry (without skin), pork loin, lean beef (eye of round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak), legumes, and seafood.  Prepare these items with little added fat.

2. Don’t skip breakfast.

Starting the day with a high fiber, low fat breakfast will help you consume fewer calories the rest of the day.  Never skip breakfast!

3. Only eat when you are hungry.

Avoid eating to relax, cure boredom or overcome depression.  These are emotions that trigger a desire to eat. Instead, brainstorm better ways to distract, calm, comfort, and nurture yourself without turning to food.  Take a walk or call a friend.

4. Snack for better health.

  • Snack only when hungry.
  • Instead of packaged snacks, think “out of the bag” and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with low fat dips or fat-free, light yogurt.  Baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and oatmeal also make great snacks.

5. Limit sugar & refined starch.

  • Limit the amount of foods you eat that contain added sugars.
  • Limit refined starch foods that are made with flour and are low in fiber.  Fill up instead with high-fiber choices such as corn, potatoes, yams, lima beans, peas, dried beans, and whole grains.

 6. Use less fat when cooking.

  • Prepare foods using lower-fat cooking methods such as baking meats on a rack, broiling. Grilling, roasting or steaming instead of frying.
  • Eliminate “extra” fats.  Trim visible fats from meats.  Rinse cooked ground meat.  Remove skin from poultry.

7. Be a smart shopper.

  • Avoid shopping when tired or hungry as that’s when you’re more likely to walk away with unnecessary impulse buys.
  • Fill grocery carts 2/3 full of whole foods instead of convenience foods.  These include fat-free dairy, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, seafood, chicken, and lean cuts of meat.
  • Spend most of your time in the produce section of the store.  Buy plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Aim for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Follow these storage tips to keep produce fresh longer.

8. Be a little adventurous.

  • Be adventurous and expand your range of healthful food choices.
  • Buy a low-fat cookbook to help you modify traditional high-fat favorites, and to introduce quick healthful dishes.

9. Take care when eating out.

  • When you eat out, choose soup and salad or smaller dishes that are low in fat.
  • Ask for sauces and dressing on the side.
  • If portions are large, take half home.

10. Try to make exercise fun.

  • Take up several aerobic activities that are enjoyable, such as an aerobics class, walking, bike riding, swimming, running, hiking, tennis, softball, etc.
  • Work out aerobically at least an hour a day, five or six days a week.
  • Include weight lifting, also known as resistance training, three to four times a week.
  • Celebrate your effort by determining the number of calories used in your workout.