There’s certainly more than one way to approach weight loss — you can count calories, carbs, points, or meticulously weigh your food.
The truth of the matter is any of these may or may not work for you for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with sustainability.
No matter which way you prefer to cut calories, there is one thing the vast majority of us aren’t eating enough of that can actually help with weight loss: fiber. High fiber foods are an important component in weight loss.
What Is Fiber and What Does It Do?
Fiber, a form of carbohydrate found in plants that humans lack the enzyme to digest, helps us feel fuller on fewer calories.
Fiber feeds the helpful bacteria living in our guts, helps keep things moving through the GI tract, can help support cardiovascular health, and can even help support healthy blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar after a meal.
We know fiber isn’t sexy. But if you’re looking for a simpler way to slim down and improve your health, eating more fiber may help you get there. There’s solid scientific research to prove it:
A study published in the Annals of Medicine compared the effectiveness of two diets: One group was asked to eat a simple, high fiber foods diet with a goal of 30 grams of fiber per day.
The other group was assigned a more complicated diet, which asked participants to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean protein, and cut back on salt, sugar, fat, and alcohol.
Despite the two very different diets, each group of dieters lost comparable amounts of weight (those on the more complicated diet lost four more pounds, on average), ate about the same amount (19 grams) of fiber each day (the high-fiber group didn’t quite make their daily fiber quota) and kept the weight off for 12 months.
This may suggest that when making dietary tweaks to lose weight, more change isn’t always better, but more importantly, fiber consumption is the common thread for both groups.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women ages 19–50 get from 25–28 grams of fiber daily; men ages 19–50 should aim for 30–34 grams each day. Try to get the bulk of your fiber intake from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. If you want to make extra sure you hit your fiber goal, a supplement can help keep you regular while supporting your digestive health.
14 High Fiber Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight
3/4 cup, 81 calories, 14.3 grams fiber
Bran cereal can pack quite the fiber punch in less than one cup, so you might want to bust out the scale or measuring cup to portion out your breakfast.
Sprinkle over 2-percent Greek yogurt or plain yogurt, and top with fresh berries for a nutrient-dense way to start your day.
Keep in mind that cereal is a processed food, so search for varieties with short, clean-ingredient lists — sprouted grains are a great bonus (Ezekiel makes sprouted versions).
1 ounce, 138 calories, 9.8 grams fiber
This superfood has garnered a lot of attention for the past few years — and for good reason. Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids (including ones that we can’t produce on our own) that are necessary for building muscle, plus a load of calcium, potassium, and phosphorous.
They’re easy to add to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and many other foods. You can even make them into chia pudding.
Navy, small white, and yellow beans, cooked
1/2 cup, 127 calories, 9.2–9.6 grams fiber
Yes, beans are considered a carb — but you get a big fiber bang for your calorie buck here, plus some protein. Add these beans to turkey chili, chicken and white bean chili, or vegan double bean chili.
French beans (green beans), cooked
1/2 cup, 114 calories, 8.3 grams fiber
Smaller and thinner than regular green beans, French green beans, or haricot vert, are a bit more delicate in flavor and have smaller pods than their larger brethren.
Serve them steamed and seasoned with lemon zest, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sea salt, or stir-fry them with ginger, garlic, and honey for a sweet-and-salty version of Chinese green beans.
1 cup, 64 calories, 8 grams fiber
They’re sweet, juicy, and a tasty way to help you to meet your fiber goal. All the little seeds in raspberries might be annoying when they get stuck in your teeth, but that’s where the bulk of the fiber comes from in this fruit.
1/2 cup, 115 calories, 8 grams fiber
Not only do lentils have plenty of fiber, but they’re also relatively simple to cook: They can easily be thrown into soups or salads. The nine grams of protein found in half a cup is an added bonus.
Tasty, punchy flavor combinations for lentil salads: lentil lime salad, rainbow lentil bowls, lentil and feta salad, and roasted pumpkin salad with lentils and goat cheese.
1/2 cup, 176 calories, 8 grams fiber
These beige beans got their claim to fame from the snack world. Craving a creamy dip? Nosh on crudite dunked in homemade hummus (avocado hummus and black bean hummus are awesome as well when you want a slight break from tradition).
Or pop crispy baked chickpeas in your mouth when you crave something crunchy and a bit salty, but don’t want to give in to fried potato chips or overly salty pretzels.
1 cup, 127 calories, 8 grams fiber
Full of potassium, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin K, blackberries are a relatively low-sugar fruit (only 7 grams per one-cup serving) to add to smoothies, dot on top of healthy desserts, mash into plain yogurt, or snack on by the handful.
If you want a savory way to serve them, try blackberry spinach salad, and if you want a recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth, try this mixed berry crumble.
1/2 cup, 114 calories, 8 grams fiber
One of the lower-calorie beans, black beans are as versatile as they are stunning. Add them to this high-protein chicken and black bean burrito bowl, dump them into this southwestern rice and bean salad, or make black bean chili.
1 cup, 142 calories, 8 grams fiber
If you haven’t used bulgur in recipes before, try it; it just might become your new favorite ingredient. It’s a bit like couscous, and cooks just as quickly. A full cup — which will easily fill you up — contains less than 200 calories.
Add roasted, grilled, or raw veggies, and toasted nuts or seeds, plus a teaspoon of olive oil, and the juice of a lemon or lime, and you have one tasty brown-bag lunch to tote to work.
This nutritious whole grain can be eaten like oatmeal, added to salads, or enjoyed as a side dish like this bulgur fruit stuffing.
1/2 cup, 45 calories, 7 grams fiber
A medium artichoke makes a great side dish, and any side with seven grams of fiber is a winner in our book. Swap out the melted butter they’re often served with for balsamic vinegar or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon juice and garlic.
2 Tbsp, 110 calories, 5.6 g fiber
Ground flax seeds are a simple way to sneak more fiber into almost any dish, and they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Adding two tablespoons to a smoothie, granola, or a flour mixture for baking provides almost six extra grams of fiber to the dish.
Ground flax seed adds a complex, nutty flavor to foods, and makes a crispy breading for chicken.
1 medium, 101 calories, 5.5 grams fiber
The next time you decide to sink your teeth into a juicy pear, leave the skin on! Most of the fiber in fruits is found in their skin, so you can miss out on the good stuff by peeling them.
Pair sliced pears with robust cheese and tart pomegranate seeds in a blue cheese, pear, and spinach salad; start you day with a fiber-full bowl of oatmeal with pears and cinnamon; or mull over dessert with red wine poached pears with mascarpone.
1/2 cup, 120 calories, 5 grams fiber
This magical fruit certainly shines on its own — generations of Aztecs and Mexicans got it right with guacamole — but it can also be used as a substitute for other fat in recipes that call for mayonnaise, such as this avocado egg salad toast, or combined with coconut oil in place of butter in these fudgy avocado brownies.
Fresh, in-season avocados aren’t cheap in most parts of the country, though, so make sure you cut your avocado this way, ripen it quickly when in a pinch this way, and store any leftovers in the most optimal way (Hint: It’s not wrapping it with plastic wrap!)
How to Eat More Fiber with Fewer Unpleasant Side Effects
Now before you clean out the grocery’s bean aisle, know that adding too much fiber to your diet too fast can make things a bit uncomfortable — for you and for those around you.
To ease into a diet higher in fiber, first figure out how much fiber your gut is used to getting each day by tracking your fiber intake over the course of a few “typical” days.
After that, gradually add an additional three to five grams every two to three days or so, until you hit the recommended daily amounts.
Here’s what three to five grams of fiber looks like in food form:
- 1 small apple with skin: 3 grams
- 1 cup halved strawberries: 3 grams
- 1 medium (7″) banana: 3 grams
- ½ cup whole-wheat pasta: 3 grams
- 1 whole wheat English muffin: 3 grams
- ¾ cup bran flakes: 5 grams
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal: 4 grams
- 1 slice hearty, whole-grain bread: 3 grams
- ¼ cup cooked lentils: 4 grams
- ¼ cup cooked black beans: 3.75 grams
- 1 ounce almonds: 3.5 grams
- ½ cup cooked peas: 4 grams
- 1 small potato with skin: 4 grams
- 1 cup whole, roasted Brussels sprouts: 4 grams
- 1 cup broccoli florets: 5 grams
- 2 tablespoons crunchy chickpeas: 4 grams
If you’re hoping that eating more fiber will help you lose weight, you’ll want to eat these foods instead of foods with little-to-no fiber, not in addition to them. Because in the end, weight loss generally boils down to eating fewer calories.
While your gut adjusts to an increase in fiber, here are some additional ways to minimize undesirable turbulence:
- Soak dried beans and cook them extra well; this helps break down some of the gas-causing sugars known as oligosaccharides.
- Avoid other gas-inducing foods, such as carbonated beverages and sugar alcohols that are often found in sugar-free candies and meal replacement protein bars.
- Drink more water. This is crucial for keeping that soluble fiber moving through your gut, which will also help move that gas along and minimize bloating. Believe me, the last thing you want is to be gassy and constipated.
The 10-Second Takeaway
Once you’ve adjusted your diet and are, ahem, comfortable with getting the recommended daily amount of fiber, chew on the high-fiber foods listed above.
They can help you feel satisfied in smaller amounts (read: fewer calories) so you can enjoy the weight loss and health benefits that come with eating more fiber.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.