Q: I’ve heard that fiber cancels out calories. So can I eat more without gaining weight if the foods are high in fiber?
A: Fiber doesn’t cancel out calories; however, it can still be a dieter’s best friend, because it makes you feel full on fewer calories. You can usually eat much more of fiber-filled foods like fruit, veggies, and whole grains than you can of low-fiber foods. (For instance, you can eat three cups of raw veggies for the calories in a slice of white bread.) And when you eat fiber along with carbs or sweets, it helps slow down digestion, making you feel more satisfied with what you’ve eaten. In fact, in a Tufts University review of several studies, researchers found that women who maintained a 2,000 calorie diet but doubled their fiber intake from 14 grams to 28 grams a day lost an average of four pounds in four months. Take advantage of fiber’s feel-full benefits by choosing snacks like strawberries or almonds between meals. Also try eating a salad before dinner—research shows it makes you naturally consume fewer calories during the meal.
Q: To lose weight, do I need to track the glycemic index of the foods I eat?
A: No. The only things you need to track are the calories you’re eating and the ones you’re burning off through exercise. The glycemic index (GI) helps people with diabetes monitor how carb-heavy foods affect their blood sugar level—white bread, for example, is high on the GI because it breaks down quickly during digestion and causes a spike in blood sugar. Most fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they’re lower on the GI. Although most low-GI foods are what I’d consider healthy “high-quality” carbs (like whole grains, beans, and vegetables), there’s no research showing that a low-GI diet helps you drop weight. Bottom line: Unless you have type 2 diabetes, don’t worry about the GI.
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Julie Upton, MS, RD, is a media resource for the American Dietetic Association.