Add This Kind of Fiber for Less Belly Fat

No one likes to have flabby arms, chubby thighs, or bountiful hips. But fat in these areas is considered subcutaneous fat, and while it may not be pretty, it's not as hazardous to your health as visceral fat.

This second type, found around the waist and belly and surrounding the vital organs, poses much more of a health risk to you than fat that's right under the skin. Visceral fat, which African Americans and Hispanic Americans are more likely to develop, increase one's risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, according to an article in Science Daily.

You may be able to reduce the amount of harmful visceral fat by eating more soluble fiber, according to a study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. When participants consumed more fruits, beans, and vegetables, and got moderate exercise, they lost visceral fat, the study showed.

For each 10-gram increase in soluble fiber that participants consumed each day, their belly fat decreased by 3.7 percent over a five-year period. When they bumped up their exercise regimen, they lost even more belly fat. These participants saw a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate that visceral fat accumulated in their bodies.

"Visceral fat is definitely the type of fat we would like for people to lose," says Spyros Mezitis, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It not only is associated with heart disease, but with strokes and diabetes, too."

Wake Forest Baptist internal medicine assistant professor and lead study researcher Kristen Hairston, MD, told ScienceDaily that researchers still don't know exactly how bumping up exercise and soluble fiber consumption works to decrease belly fat.

"Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposit has not," she says. "Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits."

To increase your soluble fiber intake, try having fruit-topped oatmeal for breakfast, says Kim Valenza, RD, CDE, of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center in New York City. Sweet potatoes are among the root vegetables that are a good source of soluble fiber, she says, and beans are a rich source as well.

"Put beans into soups or mix them into salads," Valenza suggests. "Try making a cold bean salad with several different kinds of beans."

It's also important to get enough insoluble fiber, Valenza says. "Insoluble fiber is also called roughage, and it's the fiber that helps with motility," she explains. "Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, lettuce, and fresh vegetables."

Not sure how much fiber you need? "The recommended dietary fiber intake is 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," Valenza says. If you're on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, you should be consuming about 28 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber each day.

A cup of cooked navy beans is one of the richest sources of fiber, with 19 grams per cup. A cup of frozen mixed vegetables has 8 grams of fiber, and a cup of cooked brown rice has four grams of fiber.

"Soluble fiber strikes a blow to belly fat." 27 June 2011. Science Daily.