Raise your hand if you have ever experienced this…
You wake up with fresh determination to stick to your nutrition goals. You make healthy choices for breakfast and feel successful.
Unfortunately, by the time lunch rolls around your appetite for something sweet has awakened and you indulge in a piece of cake – leaving you fuller from your lunch than you intended.
Fueled by guilt you resist the urge to go for seconds at dinner time and, think to yourself, “OK I got this.”
However, by 9:00 pm the all-too-familiar urges of your appetite have you focusing on that bottle of wine and bag of chips in the pantry. You are tired, feeling hungry, and a bit deprived. So you give in, indulge your appetite, and end the day feeling defeated.
If this happened only once, it would not be so frustrating. For most of us though, it becomes a powerful pattern that keeps us from our healthy goals.
Fiber Can Help
What if you could overcome your appetite/urges with a simple change in your daily routine?
The good news is, you can.
Adding inulin soluble fiber to your diet can help you control your appetite – and it has several other impressive health benefits.
Fiber refers to the indigestible parts of the carbohydrates we eat. There are many different types, but they are all either classified as soluble or insoluble.
- Soluble fiber such as inulin absorbs water and becomes gelatinous. It acts like a sludge pushing food through your digestive tract.
- Insoluble fiber such as lignin, does not absorb water but adds bulk to your wastes and keeps things moving – think roughage.
Inulin soluble fiber belongs to a particular class of carbohydrates called fructans. You can find it in these foods:
- Sprouted wheat found in Ezekiel bread
- Chicory Root
1) Feel Fuller and Control Your Appetite
Inulin soluble fiber gives you a feeling of being full because it actually expands in your digestive tract when it absorbs water. The digestive process slows down and you end up with less appetite and fewer cravings. A recent study (2016) that looked at the role of inulin in satiety, found that when only 6 grams of inulin was added to yogurt, participants felt a decrease in their appetite.(1)
What Can You Do? If you are struggling with your appetite be sure to include chicory root in your diet which is a good source of inulin fiber. Inulin helps to regulate a hormone called ghrelin that is primarily associated with appetite and food-seeking behaviors. Studies also prove that those who make it a habit to include fiber daily maintain their weight loss longer as compared to those who don’t and unfortunately, gain it back.(2)
2) Improve Gut Health
Getting help to control your appetite, and keeping weight off, is enough of an argument to include fiber, such as inulin, in your diet. However, there are several other advantages that should get your attention. More and more, science is realizing the powerful impact that your microflora – the live critters in your gut – have on your overall health and immune function. In fact, the primary determinant of gut health is the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria living throughout your digestive tract. You improve the odds of keeping that balance in your favor when you ingest foods with inulin. While in your intestines, inulin ferments and becomes the nourishment for your good bacteria. This food is known as prebiotics.
As a prebiotic, inulin stimulates the growth of two critical probiotic bacteria for gut health – bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.(3) With the growth of these two in your digestive tract, you have an ally against the pathogenic bacteria that can be introduced through food toxins, stress, antibiotics, and viruses.
What Can You Do? Eat bananas. They are an easy and readily available way to add inulin to your diet. Add them to fruit salads or protein smoothies for a fresh breakfast food.
3) Protect Against Cancer
The positive changes that occur in your gut microflora, thanks to fermented inulin, also help your body to fight inflammation. Research suggests that chronic inflammation in the colon may be a risk factor for colon cancer. A 28-week study in rats found that dietary intake of inulin prevented inflammation and therefore was seen as a chemopreventive step against colon cancer.(4)
What Can You Do? Eat Artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes in particular have a high amount of inulin. Get creative. Make a healthy, inulin-rich pizza with artichokes, olives, onions and garlic on a whole wheat crust.
4) Fight Osteoporosis
Once again, research supports the idea that inulin has additional health benefits not always thought of in connection to fiber. A study looking at adolescent girls found that daily consumption of inulin improved calcium absorption, and is considered a good approach to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.(5) Young girls entering puberty and older women past menopause are at risk for losing bone mineral density. This is in part due to hormonal changes that cause a decrease in the absorption of calcium. Add to this the fact that most people take in well below the daily calcium recommendations for healthy bones, and you have a recipe for brittle bones. However, lifestyle and diet choices can impact bone density,and give you a bit of control when it comes to fighting osteoporosis. Here are some proactive steps you can take to ensure a strong skeletal structure well into older years:
- Increase your fiber intake – specifically soluble fiber like inulin
- Take a quality vitamin D supplement
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Don’t smoke
- Add regular weight-bearing exercise to your routine
What Can You Do? Eat leeks. This often passed-over vegetable is one of the best sources of inulin. Additionally, it has properties that protect against free radicals in your body,flavonols that fight cancer, and contains excellent quantities of antioxidants. If you’re needing a healthy comfort food, try sweet potato and leek soup.
5) Stop Constipation
Most of us grew up hearing our moms say that we needed to eat fiber to keep regular, so this next benefit is not a complete surprise. We have already mentioned that both forms of fiber – soluble and insoluble – add bulk to our wastes which helps to keep us consistent. It turns out that inulin acts as a lubricant, making pooping a lot easier. Also not surprising is the fact that science stands behind what our moms already knew – clinical trials on chronic constipation sufferers found that inulin has a positive impact on bowel function.(6)
What Can You Do? Make it easy. Keep fresh veggies on hand for snacking. Set aside time to clean them and portion out in baggies or travel containers for easy accessibility. Shoot for 3 servings of veggies a day.
6) Improve Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death for men and women. In the United States alone it accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths. More than likely you can spot the usual suspects that put you at risk for this killer:
- Lack of exercise
- Poor diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Drinking too much alcohol
Taking a proactive approach to your heart health should be a no-brainer and doesn’t have to be complicated. A diet that is high in both kinds of fiber addresses many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In particular, soluble fiber, such as inulin can help to lower your cholesterol and may positively impact high blood pressure.(7) The sludge that is created when inulin mixes with water acts as a “street sweeper”, cleaning out toxins, waste, fat, and cholesterol particles as it pushes through your digestive tract. Combine that with the fact that soluble fiber interferes with the absorption of the bad cholesterol (LDL) and you greatly improve your blood cholesterol levels.
What Can You Do? If you struggle with adding fiber into your diet you could take a quality inulin powder and add it to a daily smoothie. A great, fiber-rich smoothie for breakfast or lunch might include:
- 1 cup of almond milk
- A handful of frozen berries
- 1 scoop of a fiber or inulin powder
- ½ of an avocado which makes it smooth and adds healthy fats and fiber
- And/or a half banana or a handful of spinach
What’s the Take-Home?
Achieving your nutrition goals is about making small, doable changes that can be maintained. Adding inulin fiber to your daily routine is a simple tweak with a high rate of return:
- Helps to control your appetite
- Improves your gut health
- Protects against colon cancer
- Fights against bone loss
- Prevents and treats constipation
- Lowers your risk for heart disease
With multiple benefits like these, it seems like an easy choice. Take control of your health one snack or meal at a time.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!
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References1) Heap, S and Ingram, J and Law, M and Tucker, AJ and Wright, AJ (2016) Eight-day consumption of inulin added to a yogurt breakfast lowers postprandial appetite ratings but not energy intakes in young healthy females: a randomised controlled trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26619790
2) Soeliman, Fatemeh Azizi and Azadbakht, Leila (2014) Weight loss maintenance: A review on dietary related strategies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061651/
3) Slavin, Joanne (2013) Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/
4) Hijova, Emilia and Szabadosova, Viktoria and Stofilova, Jana and Hrckova, Gabriela (2013) Chemopreventive and metabolic effects of inulin on colon cancer development. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885731/
5) Abrams, SA and Hawthorne, KM and Aliu, O and Hicks, PD and Chen, Z and Griffin, IJ (2007) An inulin-type fructan enhances calcium absorption primarily via an effect on colonic absorption in humans. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17884999
6) Collado, Yurrita L and San Mauro, Martín and Ciudad-Cabañas, MJ and Calle-Purón, ME and Hernández, Cabria M (2014) Effectiveness of inulin intake on indicators of chronic constipation; a meta-analysis of controlled randomized clinical trials. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25208775
7) Franco, Moreno B and Latre, Leon M and Esteban, Andres EM and Ordovas, JM and Casanovas, JA and Penalvo, JL (2014) Soluble and insoluble dietary fibre intake and risk factors for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease in middle-aged adults: the AWHS cohort. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25433109