There’s a secret weapon in the fight against fat that can help fill you up –without weighting 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. In fact, fiber is so effective that one popular celebrity diet recommends up to 40 grams per day of filling fiber from foods for optimal weight loss. (The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a daily fiber minimum of 25g for women and 38g for men. Most adults get a paltry 15 grams of daily fiber in their diet.)
According to a recent study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine 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.
If you’re looking to get more fiber in your diet, read on to find out some foods you might want to add to your grocery list.
Bulgur: If you've never had bulgur, it should be on your must-try list. Just 1/4 cup has about 7 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. (Yes, a grain with protein!) A staple food of the Middle East and Mediterranean, bulgur is a whole grain made from different varieties of wheat that have been parboiled, dried and cracked.
How to Enjoy: Bulgur comes in four different textures: fine, medium, coarse, and very coarse, and each type lends itself to a particular kind of dish. Commonly used to make Tabbouleh, bulgur’s nutty flavor makes it a great base for salads and pilafs. You can also add it to breads and muffins or try it cooked as a hot cereal.
Prunes: One serving (about 4 prunes) has 3 grams of fiber, 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.
Pistachios: Looking for fiber in a nutshell? Crack open some pistachios. A one ounce serving (about 49 kernels) has 3 g 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.
Beans: Affordable, nutritious, convenient and tasty, beans are the unsung hero of the food world. Plus, they’re an excellent source of fiber: 1/2 cup of cooked black beans, kidney beans or pinto beans clocks in at 7 grams of fiber. Beans also contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and important nutrients including folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium. The lean protein in beans helps you maintain and promote muscle growth while beans’ complex carbohydrates provide a sustained energy source.
How to Enjoy: Beans can serve as a main meal or a side dish, or they can be added to other foods, such as soups and salads, to increase nutritional value and to add flavor and texture.