There are a few buzz phrases that tend to dominate conversations about healthy eating. While low-fat, low-calorie, and zero-sugar labels might be plastered on thousands of "healthy" products, nutrition experts recommend shifting your attention to another quality if you're looking to get in shape: fiber.
"The magic of fiber is that it helps you feel full faster and longer, telling your brain that it's time to stop eating," explains Courtney Baron, Thumbtack health and wellness coach and owner of Baron Health & Wellness. "You'll find yourself consuming fewer overall calories by upping your fiber intake."
Before you overhaul your diet with fiber-rich foods, pause; Jennie Miremadi, MS, CNS, LDN, says you can overdo it. "If someone increases their fiber intake all of a sudden, it can cause gas, bloating, cramping, or diarrhea," she explains. "The key is to slowly and gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet" and drink plenty of water.
Counting down the days until summer? Baron, Miremadi, and Lisa M. Davis, chief nutrition officer of Terra's Kitchen, share the fiber-rich shopping list that will help kick-start a healthier diet.
Nuts and Seeds
"Chia seeds provide 5.5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, plus calcium and omega-3s," explains Lisa Davis, PhD, PA-C, CNS, LDN. "Adding two tablespoons of chia seeds per day was found to significantly reduce body weight and waist circumference and improve lipid profiles in individuals, especially those who were overweight, over a 12-week period."
"A quarter serving of almonds delivers 2.8 grams of fiber, along with good fats to help fight inflammation and assist in weight loss!" says Baron. "They're perfect for a snack; have a handful in between meals when the hunger pangs kick in to keep your metabolism revved up."
"[Flaxseeds are] a rich source of omega-3s," Davis points out. One study found that men who eat meals containing high amounts of flaxseed mucilage feel fuller and have high ratings of satiety compared to the control. "Top off your oatmeal or smoothie with just one tablespoon of flaxseed for three grams of fiber and two grams of protein," she recommends.
"Artichokes are loaded with antioxidants," says Miremadi. "One medium artichoke has nearly 7 grams of fiber and about 4 grams of protein. Enjoy it whole with lemon and olive oil."
"One cup of boiled spinach has more than 4 grams of fiber, more than 5 grams of protein, and is loaded with vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate," she says. "Add frozen spinach to your smoothie, have a vegetable salad with fresh spinach as the base, or steam spinach and have it as a side."
"Black beans are another great source of both fiber and protein," says Baron. "They also contain plant-based antioxidants that help fight free radicals. The results of a randomized controlled trial found that men and women who ate a high-fiber, bean-rich diet did just as well as a low-carbohydrate diet for weight control, and they improved their blood lipid levels to boot."
"Throw some chickpeas in your next salad or make your own hummus because this delicious bean is full of awesomeness," says Baron. "It's packed with insoluble fiber to help treat and prevent constipation, but it also has tons of protein, which can act as a substitute for meat. Also great for my vegan friends!"
"Lentils are a fiber powerhouse. Half a cup of cooked lentils has nearly 8 grams of fiber," says Miremadi. "Have it as a side with dinner or throw it in your favorite soup or salad."
"Avocados provide insoluble fiber that encourages efficient digestion and regular bowel movements, as well as a host of other important nutrients like potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, folate, and niacin," says Davis. "They're also an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which is known to help reduce high cholesterol levels. Add a few slices of avocado to your salad or sandwich to keep you feeling full through the afternoon."
"Half a cup of raspberries have 4 grams of fiber and less than 3 grams of sugar. They're also a good source of vitamin C. Great low sugar fruit option," says Miremadi.
"Coconut meat contains more fiber than whole grain per serving!" says Baron. "Not only that, but you also receive other delicious health benefits, such as a healthier metabolism, reduced fat in the abdominal region, and plentiful amounts of protein."
Have you tried a high-fiber diet before? Share your favorite recipes.