The #1 Food to Help You Lose Weight, According to a Dietitian
As a dietitian, I see plenty of expensive products in the marketplace that claim they're the answer for weight loss, whether it's a flat-belly tea, detox supplement or some rare fruit that apparently spews magic. But in reality, it's not crazy "superfoods" or supplements that will lead to weight loss—it's eating more fiber that can help. (Get your fill with these 10 Foods With More Fiber Than an Apple.)
Fiber is the indigestible component of plant-based foods, like fruits and veggies, legumes, whole grains and certain seeds, like chia seeds, and is the No. 1 food you should be eating more of if you're trying to lose weight (you likely should eat more for better health, regardless). Here's how it works, plus what you can do to reap the weight-loss benefits of eating more fiber.
Why is fiber the best food to eat when trying to lose weight?
Our bodies can't fully digest fiber, so it adds filling volume to our meals for very few calories. Fiber also slows down the rate of digestion, which is why we feel satisfied for longer after a high-fiber meal and less inclined to reach for a snack soon after. And last but not least, some research has shown that fiber can actually bind some calories and prevent them from being absorbed, which is another built-in weight-loss benefit of fiber. Basically, by filling up on fiber-rich foods, you'll naturally feel more satisfied after meals and as a result will consume less and absorb fewer calories overall.
Pictured Recipe: Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad
Instead of tedious calorie counting or following some restrictive fad diet that cuts out tons of otherwise-healthy foods, you can simply add more fiber to your day and get the weight-loss benefits (along with all the other amazing benefits of eating more fiber), without feeling deprived.
Research shows that this strategy is an effective way to lose weight and sustain that weight loss for the long run. Healthy weight loss is no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Take it from me—after adding more high-fiber whole grains to my diet (in the form of meal-prep lunches, like this one), I was able to lose 15 pounds to get back to a healthy weight for my body and have sustained this healthy weight for the past two years. (Read more on that here: How Eating More Carbs Helped Me Lose Weight.)
How much fiber do you need to eat to lose weight?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber each day, while men should shoot for 38 grams. (See what a high-fiber day looks like.) This is a healthy amount to aim for, but an even better measure is to pay attention to your individual hunger and fullness cues. If you find yourself hungry an hour after a meal, think back on how you could pump it up with more fiber next time. Could you have switched from white bread to whole-wheat? Chosen fruit as a side? Topped your salad with beans and nuts instead of chicken? Protein and fat also play a role in fullness, so it's also important to add a serving of each to your meals along with plenty of fiber.
See More: High-Fiber Recipes
Easy ways to eat more fiber
Pictured Recipe: Muesli with Raspberries
If your diet doesn't currently include lots of fiber-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and lentils and seeds, you'll want to start slowly and be sure to drink more water to prevent cramping or constipation. Add some berries to your morning bowl of cereal, swap out white bread for whole-wheat bread when you make sandwiches, add a whole grain (like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta) to your lunch or dinner or meal-prep some high-fiber snacks (like the Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups) to make it easy to eat more. As you get used to one new high-fiber habit, add more in till you get up to that 25 to 30 gram range per day.
Here are some satisfying high-fiber recipes to get you started:
And take a look at our high-fiber meal plans to see how to piece together a full day of healthy high-fiber meals and snacks!