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How can fiber help me lose weight?

Cardiologist, WebMD Medical Expert
Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic, Portland, Ore

Two important lifestyle factors can affect your body weight more than any others.

The first is work-related physical activity. Individuals who walk and stay mobile as part of their jobs are less likely to be overweight. The second factor is dietary fiber.

If you are mostly stationary during your work day, it's a good idea to look at how much fiber you are getting in your diet.

Fiber serves two main purposes that affect your health. Soluble fiber -- in foods like oat bran, nuts, beans, and some fruits and vegetables -- helps prevent your body from reabsorbing bile acids in your gastrointestinal tract, which can help lower your cholesterol without medication. Insoluble fiber -- found in wheat bran, whole wheat bread, and many vegetables -- absorbs water in your colon and can help keep you regular. Because fiber absorbs water, it can also help you feel fuller after taking in fewer calories.

Most of us get less than the 25 grams of daily fiber recommended by the American Heart Association. Consuming this recommended amount can help you lose weight while improving your heart health.

You can bulk up on fiber pretty easily by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, and making a point of trying higher-fiber breads, cereals, and rice. In some cases, you can meet your fiber goals with the use of a fiber supplement, but talk to your health care provider first about that. Making some simple changes in your shopping patterns can help you reach the recommended amount of daily fiber and reduce your risk of heart disease ... and stay regular.

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