New Yorkers are buzzing about a “miracle carb” diet — and soon the whole world should be buzzing with them. Why? The approach, dreamed up by Manhattan nutrition pro Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., takes high-fiber weight loss to a whole new level.
“I call fiber the ‘miracle carb’ because it does such amazing things in the human body,” reveals Zuckerbrot. “Fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate the body can’t break down. And the more studies that are conducted on it, the more benefits we discover.” Used the right way, “fiber will help you trigger the fastest, safest weight loss possible.”
After 16 years of experimenting, Zuckerbrot says her fiber formula is so effective, 90 percent of dieters love it and stick with it. “People say they don’t feel hungry, they don’t feel deprived,” she reports. “And the average woman loses her first 10 pounds in just two to four weeks.” Some even report losing much faster. Reader Christine Donald, 49, dropped 10 pounds after just five days. “This diet is economical and low-stress. It keeps me full all the time. I don’t have to work out. And I can have crackers and cheese when I’d normally eat Doritos,” says the Texas mom. “For me, it’s the perfect diet.”
While an average woman gets as little as 12 grams of fiber daily — half the amount experts recommend for ideal health — Zuckerbrot’s Miracle Carb Diet guidelines bump you up to a minimum of 35 grams. And that’s just for starters. During the plan’s initial two-week jumpstart phase, you’ll get roughly 50 percent of your carbs from fiber — a trick achieved by trading lower-fiber starchy foods (like Rice Krispies, chips and white bread) for certain ultra-high-fiber alternatives (like Fiber One, high-fiber crackers, fruit and veggies). Meals are rounded out with healthy portions of lean protein and a little good fat. At first glance, the sample menus, below, may seem too simple and sensible to be speedy. But don’t be fooled.
“On an intuitive level, you can sense that a diet built around fiber is so much better for your body than a diet built around processed frozen meals or loads of meat,” says Zuckerbrot. “It just feels better.” And here’s why it also speeds off flab:
Fiber burns calories: The body burns lots of calories as it tries to break down fiber. A recent study even found it takes an extra 64 calories to digest cheese on whole-wheat bread vs. cheese on white. And that’s just one sandwich. High-fiber dieters “expend hundreds of extra calories trying to break fi ber down,” says Zuckerbrot. “It boosts metabolism significantly.”
Fiber traps calories: Water-soluble fiber “turns into a gel-like mass in your digestive tract,” Zuckerbrot explains. This gel traps some of the calories you eat, preventing them from ever being absorbed. In a landmark USDA study, when women upped their fiber from 12 to 24 grams, “they made 90 calories disappear.”
Fiber is a double-action hunger blaster: Fiber’s gel-like mass stretches the stomach, “stimulating the release of anti-hunger hormones.” The gel also creates a lasting feeling of fullness as it moves slowly through your system.
It revs fat-burning: “By eating a high-fiber diet, you naturally need less insulin to maintain normal blood sugar,” says the pro. And the less insulin you have, the less fat you store. Even better, lower insulin allows stored fat to be burned more readily. Bonus: As insulin stabilizes, over time you’ll be better able to process treats and cheats as you continue toward your goal.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve learned we’re most likely to change our lives when we don’t make huge changes to our lifestyle,” Zuckerbrot insists. Which is why she tweaked her plan until it allowed for restaurant meals, healthy desserts, even cocktails. “These strategies make the diet flexible and fun, so you’re less tempted to cheat.” Another bonus: Gentle exercise is encouraged, but killer workouts are banned, since they stimulate appetite and lead to burnout. Says Heather Stines, 39, a New York mom who dropped 45 pounds: “I always thought a diet had to be horrible to work. Now I know that’s not true. This plan lets you have a normal life and get thin.”
Want to give the Miracle Carb approach a try? Our nutrition team created these special mix-and-match menus to make it easy. Drink lots of water to “soften” the fiber in your food and make it more effective, advises Zuckerbrot. You can also have one diet soda a day, and as much zero-cal tea and coffee as you’d like. Use ultra-low-cal extras (spices, vinegar, citrus juices, Splenda) as desired. Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Option 1: 1/2 cup Fiber One cereal (or any cereal with 10 g. or more fiber per serving) with 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup fruit adding cinnamon or Splenda to taste.
Option 2: 4 scrambled egg whites with 3 Tbs. shredded low-fat cheese and vegetables to taste, 1 tsp. olive oil and 1/2 cup fruit.
Option 1: 5 oz. white-meat turkey burger, 1 oz. reduced-fat cheese, mustard and lettuce, tomato, onion to taste with unlimited steamed veggies, 1 tsp. olive oil.
Option 2: 1 cup low-carb vegetable soup (such as Progresso Light or Amy's Organic Chunky Vegetable) with 5 oz. grilled chicken over large salad with 1 Tbs. nuts, 2 tsp. olive oil, vinegar and seasoning to taste.
Option 3: 6 oz. lean deli meat and 2 oz. low-fat cheese rolled with lettuce leaves, mustard to taste with unlimited raw veggies and 1/4 cup guacamole.
Option 1: 4 high-fiber crackers with 1/2 cup tuna, 2 tsp. low-fat mayo, chopped veggies to taste.
Option 2: 4 high-fiber crackers with 3 oz. lean deli meat, veggie and mustard to taste.
Option 3: 4 high-fiber crackers with 2 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges or 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese with 1 spoonful sugar-free jelly or tomato slices.
Brands of high-fiber crackers to try: Wasa Fiber Crispbread; Ryvita Rye and Oat Bran; GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbread or Kavil 5-Grain.
Option 1:1 cup broth-based soup
1 palm-sized serving fish, chicken breast or lean meat with unlimited steamed or roasted vegetables.
Option 2: 6 oz. baked or grilled fish, 1 tsp. olive oil and herbs with unlimited mixed green salad, 1 Tbs. vinaigrette with unlimited roasted artichoke hearts or other veggie.
Option 3: 4 oz. lean ground beef, 1/4 cup reduced-fat shredded cheese, 1/4 cup tomato, 2 Tbs. low-fat sour cream, cilantro to taste; serve taco-style in large lettuce leaves with unlimited sliced bell pepper.
Sugar-free Jello with sugar-free fat-free whipped cream or sugar-free Creamsicle or low-sugar Fudgsicle.
If desired, enjoy 1 glass wine or 1 sugar-free cocktail (such as a vodka and soda or rum and diet cola) each day.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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