Anyone familiar with the world of nutritional science knows there's an overwhelming amount of conflicting evidence to sort through. So many of the strategies are both complex and contradictory, at least part of the reason dieting is so hard. Not to mention, the tenets are ever-changing.
All that is to say that simple formulas are especially cherished. When the goal is straightforward -- eat healthier, lose weight -- why shouldn't the approach be, too?
A new study found there is a simple strategy that works: eating more fiber. Adding just 30 grams of daily fiber to study participants' diets, said researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, matched or bested the effects of the diet proffered by the American Heart Association (AHA).
The AHA's diet includes 13 components, and even though study participants following it lost slightly more weight than fiber-focused dieters, the discrepancy was negligible.
"The more complex AHA diet resulted in slightly larger (but not statistically significant) weight loss, but a simplified approach emphasizing only increased fiber intake may be a reasonable alternative for individuals who find it difficult adhering to a more complicated diet," lead researcher Dr. Yunsheng Ma, associate professor of medicine, explained in a press release.
Participants who employed the fiber diet were able to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their insulin response. All 240 of the volunteers participating in the study had symptoms of metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol, and were overweight.
Researchers stressed that the diet is most effective when fiber is sourced with whole fruits, vegetables and proteins -- not via supplements. A few of the healthier food items high in fiber include: whole grains like barley and oats; vegetables like spinach and carrots; legumes like chickpeas and lima beans; fruits like apples and bananas; and proteins like seeds and nuts.
"In addition to weight control, higher fiber diets can also help to prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health who didn't participate in the study, told Harvard's Health Blog.
Researchers estimate that a simpler diet like the "more fiber" approach could promote great long-term adherence. Consuming more fiber can also help dieters feel satiated without overeating.
The new study was published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.