How a Fiber-Rich Diet Can Help People With Type 2 Diabetes Lose Weight

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At some point, you've probably heard that you should eat a high-fiber diet, but perhaps you are not sure why or how.

Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber helps to keep you full, pull cholesterol away from your heart, promotes bowel regularity and can help regulate blood glucose control. It is recommended that we ingest about 25-38g/day of fiber.

But research has found that in those persons with Type 2 diabetes, high intakes of fiber from whole foods -- about ~30-50g/daily -- may produce lower serum glucose levels compared to a low-fiber diet.

According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper, it is believed that when high fiber foods are ingested, the rate at which glucose appears in the blood is slower and insulin secretion is reduced. Fiber delays gastric emptying and digestion. Experimental evidence suggests that the delay in digestion reduces the absorption of glucose, resulting in lower after-meal blood sugars and improving long-term glucose control.

When adding fiber to your diet, it is important to do so slowly. Adding fiber too quickly may cause gas, bloating and discomfort. Simultaneously, increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake; this will help to move fiber down your digestive tract.

Counting Fiber Grams

If you are following a consistent carbohydrate diet, you probably don't need to count fiber grams too. But, you certainly can. Use labels for foods that have them. Fiber is listed under the total carbohydrates. Remember to make sure that you account for the serving size. For example 2 Tsp of almond butter contains 3g of fiber, but you if you only eat 1 Tbsp than you are getting 1.5g of fiber.

Foods that do not contain labels such as fruits and vegetables can be calculated using resources such as apps, books, and websites. 

Tips for Choosing High-Fiber Foods

When purchasing bread, cereal, grains and other snack foods, aim to purchase foods that contain at least 3g of fiber (5g even better!). You want most of your grain consumption to comprise of whole grains. By definition, a whole grain contains 100% of the original kernel - all of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Keeping the grain intact boosts nutritional value. In fact, whole grains have some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and fiber.

You can identify a food as a whole grain by locating the whole grain stamp or looking at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should say "whole." For example, ​whole oat, whole rye, whole wheat.

Examples of whole grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Barely
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut, durum and bulgar, cracked wheat and wheat berries
  • Wild rice

Foods That Contain Added Fiber

Many food products on the market contain added fibers extracted from plants (such as fruits, whole grains, and legumes).

These types of foods are called functional fibers or resistant starches. Whether or not these types of extracted fibers have the same benefit (for ex: protection against cardiovascular disease) as fiber from whole foods is still not fully understood. Aim to eat whole foods as often as you can.

How to Get Enough Fiber Daily

The key to eating enough fiber is to eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds daily. Make it your goal to eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Below you will find a sample day of a very high fiber diet.

Please note that before starting any new diet you should speak with your doctor first.

Sample High-Fiber Menu 

This sample menu aims for approximately 50 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

3 scrambled egg whites with 1/3 avocado (3g fiber), 1/2 cup broccoli (2.5g fiber) and 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (1g fiber)

2 slices of whole grain bread (~6g fiber)

1/2 cup of raspberries (4g fiber)

Lunch

Grilled chicken vegetable wrap

1 high fiber whole grain wrap (5g fiber)

1/2 cup beans (8g fiber)

1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms (1g fiber)

1/2 cup sauteed peppers (1g fiber)

3 oz of grilled chicken

Snack

1 apple (4g fiber)

12 almonds or 1 Tsp almond or peanut butter (2g fiber)

Dinner

5oz grilled salmon

6 grilled asparagus spears (3g fiber)

2/3 cup quinoa with sprinkle of goat cheese and 1/4 cup chopped artichokes (8g fiber)

Snack: 1/2 cup strawberries (1.5g fiber)

Total fiber: ~50g/fiber day

Sources

American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health
Implications of Dietary Fiber. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1716-1731.

Whole Grain Council. Whole Grains 101.

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