How Fiber Can Help You Lose Weight (Including Stubborn Belly Fat)

How Fiber Can Help You Lose Weight (Including Stubborn Belly Fat)

Fiber may not be as trendy a term as keto, paleo, or flexitarian—hey, it makes us think of bran muffins and carpet fibers, too!—but let’s give that five-letter word a little love. After all, adding more fiber to your diet is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to manage your weight. (One large study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition found that increased fiber intake helped subjects lose weight independently of other factors in their diet; a 2018 study in Nutrition found that when subjects focused simply on increasing the amount of fiber and lean protein in their diet, they ate few calories and lost weight as a result,)

“Fiber slows the speed of digestion, which makes you feel full and may help you eat less and stay satisfied longer,” explains Marisa Moore, R.D.N., L.D., a culinary and integrative dietitian. When you feel full after your meal, you’re less likely you reach for a bag of chips or cookies an hour later, adds Krista Linares, R.D.N., who specializes in diabetes management and prevention in the Latino community.

In addition to making you feel full, fiber plays another important role in weight loss: “Because fiber helps slow down digestion, it also slows down how quickly your body responds to the carbohydrates you eat, and can help you better manage your insulin and blood sugar response to food,” says Linares.

Fiber is also crucial for digestive and heart health. “Fiber is not digestible, so that extra bulk is added to your stool, which helps you stay regular,” explains Linares. “Having healthy, regular digestion can have long term health benefits such as reducing the risk of colorectal cancers.” It also keeps your heart healthy by lowering blood pressure, and helping reduce LDL cholesterol, Linares adds.

What is fiber, exactly?

Simply put, fiber is the part of a plant that your body can’t digest (unlike fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, which your digestion system breaks down and absorbs). There are two kinds of fiber, Moore explains: “Soluble fibers hold water and tend to help slow down digestion, while insoluble fiber is key for regularity.” You can find soluble fiber in food such as apples, carrots, peas, beans, and oats. Good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, cauliflower, brown rice, lentils, and celery.

So how much fiber should I eat?

Adult women should consumer at least 25g of fiber a day, though Moore and Linares both warn that you should up your fiber game slowly—if you go from zero to 25 overnight, you may experience gastrointestinal issues. Linares recommends adding one extra serving a day (about 5g), and getting used to that for a few days before adding in another serving. “If the you eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, you should aim to eventually get about 5 grams of fiber at every meal or snack,” she says.

a pile of fruit: Pears.© Hans Verburg – Getty Images Pears.

Which foods are high in fiber?

“There are so many great options for adding fiber,” says Moore, who lists berries, beans, peas, and lentils as her favorite fiber-rich foods. “When fresh berries are in season, enjoy them fresh, tossed into salads, as a snack, or in yogurt. And be sure to stock frozen berries for a quick and nutritious addition to smoothies,” she suggests. Linares is a big fan of pistachios, which have 3g fiber in 1 ounce. Here is a list of top tastes to choose from:

  • Chia seeds (2T): 10g
  • Black beans (1/2 cup): 8.3g
  • Chickpeas (½ cup): 8.1g
  • Lentils (1/2 cup): 7.8g
  • White beans (1/2 cup): 6.3g
  • Pears: 5.5g
  • Avocado (1/2 cup): 5g
  • Edamame (1 cup) 5g
  • Almonds (1/4 cup): 4.5g
  • Apples: 4.4g
  • Bulgur (1/2 cup): 4.1g
  • Raspberries (1/2 cup): 4g
  • Collard greens (1 cup): 4g
  • Blackberries (1/2 cup): 3.8g
  • Baked potato: 3.6g
  • Peas (1/2 cup): 3.5g
  • Popcorn (3 cups): 3.5g
  • Whole grain bread (1 slice): 3g
  • Strawberries (1 cup): 3g
  • Quinoa (1/2 cup): 2.6g
  • Broccoli (1 cup): 2.4g
  • Kiwi: 2.1g
  • Blueberries (1/2 cup): 2g

And don’t forget to add water!

Any time you add fiber to your routine, you must make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, says Linares: “One of the ways fiber works is by drawing water into your stool, which helps keep you regular. This only works if you drink enough water, though.” She suggests adding an extra glass of water to your routine as you build up your fiber intake.

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