Fiber isn't just the go-to nutrient for keeping our bodies regular. It's also a powerful source for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting weight loss. Yes, indeed: Pumping up your fiber intake can help you slim down.
How Fiber Can Help With Weight Loss
There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble, per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Soluble dietary fiber is just that: It dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in your stomach that's then broken down in your large intestine. This is the type of fiber that helps lower your cholesterol and is good for your heart health.
Insoluble dietary fiber doesn't dissolve; instead, it passes through your GI tract and helps keep you regular.
Both types of fiber contribute to weight loss. That's because fiber, in general, keeps you feeling fuller longer after a meal or snack (compared to low- or no-fiber foods) and can help you eat less, per Harvard Health Publishing. Plus, foods high in fiber tend to be relatively low in calories.
How Much Fiber You Should Aim For
Most of us fall short when it comes to our fiber intake. Only about 5 percent of Americans eat the daily recommended amount, according to one study in the January-February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. In other words, we all probably need to up our fiber game. But what's the target?
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) recommends between 25 and 38 grams a day for adults under 50, and 21 to 30 grams a day for adults 50 and older.
But if your goal is to lose weight, aim for 30 grams or more per day. In a February 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, study participants were instructed to either follow a diet where the only goal was to eat at least 30 grams of fiber a day or to follow the American Heart Association's (AHA) diet for preventing heart disease (e.g., eat more fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish and lean protein, and cut back on salt, sugar, fat and alcohol). Both groups lost weight, but as the researchers pointed out, the high-fiber diet was much simpler to follow.
Are You Getting Enough Fiber?
10 Healthy, High-Fiber Foods
Here are 10 easy-to-find foods that will help you up your fiber game. Fiber counts are all per the USDA.
- High-fiber cereal: A fiber-packed, good-for-you cereal can deliver anywhere from 5 to 14 grams of fiber per serving (check the nutrition label)
- Chia seeds: 1/4 cup contains 11 grams of fiber
- Raspberries: 1 cup has a whopping 8 grams of fiber
- Peas: These little green legumes pack in 8 grams of fiber per cup
- Chickpeas: A half-cup has 8 grams of fiber
- Avocado: This creamy green fruit is surprisingly fiber-rich, with 5 grams in one half-cup
- Oatmeal: Prepare a half-cup of oats and get 4 grams of fiber
- Almonds: They are the most fibrous nut, delivering 3.5 grams in a 1-ounce serving (Peanuts aren't too far behind; a 1-ounce serving has just over 2.5 grams of fiber)
- Air-popped popcorn: A cup of this low-calorie snack has only 1 gram of fiber — but it's more likely you'll eat closer to 3 cups, which boasts 3 grams of fiber
- Green beans: A single cup (which is a serving of vegetables) gives you 3 grams of fiber
Your 7-Day High-Fiber Meal Plan to Help You Lose Weight
Here we outline what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can get at least 30 grams of fiber in your daily diet. Some days offer even more of the nutrient.
Increasing your fiber too quickly can cause side effects like constipation, gas and bloating. If you're not used to this much fiber in your diet, you may want to build up slowly, adding a bit more fiber each day over the course of a few weeks.
- Breakfast: Combine two servings of this Vanilla Almond High-Protein Granola (6 grams of fiber) with 1 cup raspberries (8 grams of fiber) and pour in your favorite milk.
- Lunch: Eat both servings of this Cheesy High-Protein Twice-Baked Sweet Potato recipe (4 grams of fiber).
- Dinner: Be sure to use chickpea pasta in this Plant-Protein Powered Butternut Mac and "Cheese" (11 grams of fiber) for extra fiber. Round out the meal with these Hemp Hearties (3 grams of fiber).
- Breakfast: Consider these Paleo Cobbler Baked Apples (5 grams of fiber) an extra-special breakfast. Pair it with Greek yogurt for some protein-rich staying power.
- Lunch: Almost Cobb Salad Bowl (15 grams of fiber)
- Dinner: Enjoy two servings of this Butternut Squash, Balsamic, Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza (12 grams of fiber) to round out your fiber-filled day.
- Breakfast: High-Protein Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie (12 grams of fiber)
- Lunch: This Sesame-Crusted Chicken Breast with Pasta and Asparagus (5 grams of fiber) provides a well-rounded meal in one recipe
- Dinner: Pair this quick-and-easy Lentil Raisin Spinach Salad (5 grams of fiber) with your favorite protein. End the meal with this Espresso Mocha Pudding (9 grams of fiber)
- FDA: "Interactive Nutrition Facts Label"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should I be eating more fiber?"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap"
- USDA: "Abridged List Ordered by Nutrient Content in Household Measure, Total Dietary Fiber"