How Fiber Fights Belly Fat

by Jackie Wicks

Soluble Fiber Has Notable Health Benefits

When we talk about health benefits, soluble fiber is the one which is most frequently cited. A meal high in soluble fiber moves much more slowly through the digestive tract, which increases fullness, but this is far from the only benefit!

Another great benefit of soluble fiber is that it makes it challenging for the carbohydrates consumed in your meal to make their way to the lining of your small intestine. As opposed to a thin, liquidy chyme, carbohydrates (specifically glucose, the simple sugar we digest most carbohydrates into) have trouble moving through the thick chyme of a soluble fiber-laden meal.

Ultimately, this means that less carbohydrates are absorbed, and the ones that are absorbed are absorbed over a much greater period of time as opposed to the rapid absorption simple carbs have. The benefits of this slower rate of absorption are two-fold: you have much more prolonged energy, due to the “trickle release” of glucose into your blood, and blood sugar never spikes which means there is no insulin spike and associated “sugar crash”.

Soluble Fiber Locks Away Dietary Fats

In addition to slowing down carbohydrate absorption, soluble fiber can also ‘bind’ fats and cholesterol. Instead of just making it difficult for fat or cholesterol to ‘swim’ to the intestinal membrane, soluble fiber literally locks some of the fat and cholesterol away, completely preventing them from being absorbed. This is how soluble fiber, including the beta-glucan fibers advertised by most oatmeal companies, lower cholesterol—by binding the cholesterol our own body releases in the form of bile (to digest the fat in a meal) and preventing it from being reabsorbed.

When we combine the decreased absorption of carbohydrates and the binding of fat in a meal with a high soluble fiber content, what happens is that “total fecal excretion” of calories increases—we poop out more of the calories than we normally would. This sounds gross, but the upside is that literally we get to eat more food because the soluble fiber prevents us from absorbing all of it!

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