It’s just a few weeks into the new year, and already many people are struggling to keep their weight loss resolutions. Why do so many well-intentioned dieters give up so soon? In a word: hunger. Cutting back on calories – not to mention boosting exercise – can increase your appetite and hunger, making it harder to stick with your resolve.
But there’s a secret weapon that can help fill you up without weighing you down– fiber! Although fiber may not seem very glamorous, a growing number of celebrities and CEOs swear by it – and science backs them up.
Why fiber? It helps you feel fuller for longer, cleans you out, lowers blood sugar, and it’s calorie-free.
Though the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily minimum of 25 g of fiber for women and 38 g for men, most adults get only a paltry 15 grams of daily fiber in their diet. But according to a recent study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, boosting your daily intake could have big benefits. The study found that participants who upped the fiber in their diet to at least 30 grams daily — without changing anything else in their diet—lost about 5 pounds and kept it off!
So how can you increase your intake of this hunger fighter? Old standbys like fortified cereals and beans are great, but there’s no need to stop there. You’ll find fiber in a wide array of foods, including most fruits, veggies, grains and legumes. Fiber supplements can play a role too, but food should be your first option – and you should never start taking supplements without checking with your doctor. If you currently have a low fiber intake, add more fiber to your diet gradually and increase your fluid intake – if not, you may experience bloating or constipation.
Here are a few high-fiber foods and ways to enjoy them:
Artichokes: They may have an unusual shape and texture, but artichokes are easy to prepare and wonderfully tasty and nutritious. They’ll go a very long way to meeting your fiber needs while keeping calories low. A medium-sized artichoke contains 7g of fiber and only 60 calories.
How to Enjoy: Artichokes are easy to make: just steam them. After steaming, start by pulling off the outermost petals. Dip the base of the petal into your favorite sauce (try lemon, salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil). Once all the petals have been removed, you’ve arrived at the heart, carefully remove the fuzz – not edible – slide, dip and enjoy. They make an excellent appetizer or side dish.
Prunes: One serving (about 4 prunes) has 3 grams of fiber and 290 mg of potassium, all for less than 100 calories. One study showed that compared with other snack foods, prunes may help to lower blood glucose levels, increase satiety, and suppress hunger.
How to Enjoy: Grab some prunes for a filling snack that will also quash your sweet cravings. I also add them to baked goods like muffins and homemade granola bars, smoothies and salads.
Pasta: Surprised to see pasta on a fiber list? You shouldn’t be. Most pasta varieties have about 3 grams of fiber per cup cooked. And some brands have up to 6 grams of fiber, keeping you energized and fuller for longer.
How to Enjoy: How can you not enjoy pasta! Whether it’s elbows, shells, angel hair or regular spaghetti, a simple pasta topped with fresh veggies, olive oil or marinara sauce and a dash of cheese is the ultimate hassle-free, healthy meal.
Pistachios: Looking for fiber in a nutshell? Crack open some pistachios. A one-ounce serving (about 49 kernels) has 3g of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Plus they offer more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Worried about the fat and calories? With 160 calories and 13 g of fat per ounce, pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat nuts. (And 90% of the fat in pistachios is unsaturated, i.e. “the good fat”).
How to Enjoy: Snack on a handful of pistachios or you can add them to trail mixes, salads, or dishes like this Spicy Roasted Squash with Pistachios.
Apples: A small apple – at just 75 calories – packs a powerful satiety punch, with 3.5 grams of filling fiber. And research reported in the journal Appetite showed that women who added three small apples to their diet each day lost a little more than two pounds in 10 weeks — more than dieters who did not include the fruit in their diet. And there’s another potential weight loss bonus with the mighty apple: they contain ursolic acid, a natural compound that is believed to boost fat burning and may promote lean muscle mass.
How to Enjoy: Apples make a perfect portable snack. They’re also ideal for adding to sandwiches and oatmeal. And don’t forget desserts! A baked apple is an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth without blowing your calorie budget.