Like it or not, most diets focus on deprivation, which can making eating a pretty bland experience. Lisa Lillien, however, has a different idea. The creator of the popular Hungry Girl daily emails and cookbooks says you can actually lose weight eating the foods you love. “My goal,” she says, “is to find easy ways to make food we crave healthy.”
Proof of her sound methodology is the fact that Lillien has kept off three sizes for a decade, and legions of her adoring readers report similar results. Naturally, she has a host of tips for trimming down. However, research suggests one tip may deserve more credit than the rest.
The author of Hungry Girl Fast & Easy, Lillien got her start looking for satisfying ways to lose weight. “I learned early on to sneak fiber in wherever I can. It helps give meals a bigger volume for fewer calories,” she says. “Fiber also fills you up and keeps you content a long time.”
Without realizing it, she gravitated toward ingredients like apples, bananas, beans, broccoli, greens, and oats. All of these happen to be top sources of viscous fiber. “It’s a special super-fiber much more powerful than regular fiber that can provide a great way to lose weight,” says Cleveland Clinic nutrition expert Mark Hyman, MD.
What sets it apart? Unlike indigestible roughage from, say, bran or raspberry seeds, viscous fiber absorbs up to 50 times its weight in fluid, turning into a thick gel that is very slowly broken down.
Interesting fact: An entire glass of water turns to gel if you stir in just a smidge of viscous fiber. Within our bodies, this gel does remarkable things.
What is viscous fiber?
Scientists say fiber-based gel creeps through our systems at a snail’s pace. As it goes, it blunts our appetites, reduces production of fat-storage hormones, and actually releases
potent fat-burning compounds called butyrates.
The effect is so intense, research shows, that viscous fiber, which tends to occur naturally in plants alongside other types of fiber, actually deserves all the credit for helping dieters eat less and lose more weight.
Additional research determined that adding a mere eight grams of viscous fiber a day — the amount in three-quarters of a cup of black beans or a large sweet potato — sets us up to burn 86 percent more ab flab and lose 73 percent more weight than if we skipped it. In many studies, a two- to five-gram viscous fiber supplement a day “resulted in significant weight loss in overweight individuals,” says Dr. Hyman, a fan of a version called glucomannan.
Also worth noting: As gut bacteria metabolize viscous fiber, it triggers benefits linked to weight control and overall health. “That includes lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar and insulin, cancer prevention and much more,” according to Dr. Hyman, who shares advice on DrHyman.com.
If you want to look and feel your absolute best, take a tip from Hungry Girl and “make sure you eat more fiber!” Dr. Hyman suggests aiming for at least 20 grams of total fiber a day, and you’ll easily get 10 or more grams of viscous fiber.
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