If the phrase “fiber in your diet” calls to mind images of your mom popping Metamucil tablets, we don’t blame you—fiber is basically the Golden Girls of the nutrient world. However, it’s also an essential for weight loss.
Fiber is about as close to a magic weight loss ingredient as you can get, says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting enough of it, she says.
The average woman should be getting 25 to 30 grams a fiber per day, says Gans. That’s the amount in 7 apples, or 12 cups of broccoli, or 7 ½ cups of oatmeal. We’re going to take a wild guess that you’re not eating that many apples.
Getting an adequate amount of that nutrient through whole foods (not fiber supplements) keeps you fuller longer because fiber digests much slower than simple carbs. And the more full and satisfied you feel after eating healthy, fiber-filled foods, the less tempting those cookies in the break room will be after lunch, says Gans.
On top of that, this essential part of your diet keeps your digestive system running smoothly, so you won’t be bloated or constipated.
Another bonus that comes with packing fiber into your diet is that healthy weight-loss friendly foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, are already full of the stuff, says Gans. So by aiming to meet your fiber quota, rather than counting calories, you’ll end up making better food choices overall, she says.
Since pounding half a dozen apples at the end of your day to meet your fiber goal isn’t appetizing, the best strategy is to spread your servings out across all your meals and snacks for the day, says Gans.
“All of your meals should include at least 8 grams of fiber,” she says. To hit the 30 grams per day goal, snack on a medium pear or a half an avocado, which have about six grams of fiber each, says Gans.
To ramp up your fiber intake at each meal, start including oatmeal, which has four grams per cup, quinoa (five grams per cup), and barley (eight grams per 1/4 cup) into your menu. To up the ante even further, get friendly with fiber-filled mix-ins like chia seeds (10 grams per ounce), and chickpeas (about nine grams per 1/4 cup).
Above all, remember that fiber is your friend.