Psst! Do you want to know one of the most effective weight loss and health secrets of all time? A trick that all but ensures you'll remain full and satisfied while shedding pounds? The answer is clear as day: Eat more fiber.
It sounds far too simple to be legit, but it's true. The oft-overlooked nutrient, which describes the indigestible material found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is both extremely filling and brimming with health benefits—making it a vital component of every diet. The National Fiber Council recommends that adults consume 32 grams of the stuff a day, but as a nation, we're coming up short. Very short, actually, with most of us getting between 10 and 15 grams a day. For a point of reference, that's the equivalent of consuming just one large apple and three tablespoons of chickpeas—which is practically nothing!
Read on to find out exactly what can go awry if you don't consume enough fiber; it may just be the kick in the rear you need to finally add more oatmeal and berries to your daily diet!
You Get Backed Up
Constantly feeling "backed up" in the bathroom may be a sign you're coming up short on fiber, says certified dietitian nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro. "Having a fiber rich diet allows more water to remain in your stool, making it easier to pass through your intestines. When we don't get enough fiber, it slows down our digestive system and makes it harder for us to eliminate our waste." Add more of these high fiber foods to your daily diet to keep things—er, moving along smoothly—and ensure you hit the nutritional mark on the reg.
You're Always Hungry
If you've ever eaten a huge tray of chicken nuggets and fries only to find your stomach growling soon after, it's likely because you're meal lacked fiber. Fiber helps to slow the digestion process, helping you feel fuller for longer. Adding a fiber-rich food like avocados, beans, brown rice, and pears to your meals and snacks will help keep those post-meal tummy rumbles at bay—and can subsequently aid weight loss efforts. Whatever you do, though, just steer clear of these 17 Worst Fiber-Rich Foods.
You Might Gain Weight
"When we don't eat enough fiber, we tend to be hungrier and are more prone to overeating," explains Schapiro. Research indicates that simply switching from a low-fiber diet to one that helps you hit the recommended 32 daily grams can help you slash 100 calories per day. Though 100 calories may seem trivial, that equates to a 10-pound weight loss over a year. For more simple ways to accelerate your flat belly wins, check out these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat!
Your Cholesterol Levels Spike
The less soluble fiber you consume (that's the kind found abundantly in oatmeal, beans and brussels sprouts), the higher your risk for high cholesterol climbs, according to numerous American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports. Scientists hypothesize that fiber acts as a magnet as it moves through the intestine, attracting and carrying out the artery-clogging plaque that would otherwise spike cholesterol levels.
You Increase Your Risk of Stroke And Heart Disease
When your cholesterol levels are out of a healthy range—as a result of a low-fiber diet or otherwise—it can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine data and findings published in the journal Stroke. That's because both stroke and heart disease are brought on by the buildup of plaque in the arteries. To help your ticker stay healthy for years to come, be sure to avoid these 30 Worst Foods For Your Heart.
You Become Deficient in Other Nutrients, Too
If you're not eating fiber-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies, there's a good chance you also may not be getting enough of the other health-protective nutrients found of those foods. Check in with your M.D. if you know you're not consuming much fiber to make sure you don't have any type of major nutritional deficiency. A multi-vitamin and a well-rounded diet can likely help you get back on track towards better health. And speaking of vitamins, learn all there is to know about popping those Flinstones in our exclusive report, 21 Things You Don't Know About Vitamins!
You May Develop Diabetes
Get this: People who regularly eat low-fiber, fast-digesting high-glycemic foods like white bread, cookies, soda and white rice, are more than twice as likely as those who regularly consume the nutrient to develop type 2 diabetes. Yeesh! Scary stuff. What's the connection? "Foods rich in fiber help to prevent blood sugar and insulin spikes, that over time could lead to diabetes," explains Schapiro.
Eat This! Tip
To build up your diabetes defense, add whole milk—yes, we said whole—to your overnight oats. Aside from the 5 grams of fiber in the ½ cup of oats, people who eat high-fat dairy products were found to have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study of nearly 27,000 people.
You'll Be Sleepy All the Time
Besides upping your risk for diabetes, seesawing blood sugar levels can also leave you feeling lethargic—even if you got plenty of shut-eye the night before. To keep your energy and blood sugar levels stable throughout the day, reach for a fiber-filled source of complex carbs with a bit of protein and fat. A slice of Ezekiel bread topped with a tablespoon almond butter (4 g fiber, 7.5 g protein, 9.5 g fat) is an easy way to sneak in all those prime energy-boosting nutrient at once.
Now, The Good News!
Adding more fiber to your diet is actually really simple—yes, seriously! Just be sure to increase your intake slowly and increase your intake of fluids as you ramp up to keep bloating, cramping and gas at bay. (Hate H20? Tea, seltzer and detox water can all help your body digest the extra fiber.) Read on to discover 10 stupid-simple ways to up your intake of fiber today!
Go for Whole Grain
If white bread or rice are staples in your diet, swap them out for sources of fiber-packed whole grains like Ezekiel Bread (2-4 grams/slice), brown rice (4 grams/cooked cup) or quinoa (5 grams/cooked cup).
Add a Fruit, Veggie or Whole Grain to Each Meal & Snack
If keeping a log of your daily fiber intake seems totally unrealistic, you can ensure you hit the recommended 32 grams per day by simply adding a serving or two of fruits, vegetables or whole grains to every meal and snack. "Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all excellent sources of fiber," says Alissa Rumsey, Registered Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Aim to eat at least two servings of fruit, two to three servings of vegetables, and one or two servings of whole grains daily to meet your fiber needs." If you already eat a Greek yogurt for breakfast, for example, top it with some blackberries. If mason jar salad is your mid-day go-to, add in a half-cup of navy or kidney beans.
Swap Juices for Smoothies
Fresh juices may serve up a hefty serving of vitamins, but the juicing process strips the fiber from fruits and vegetables, so you are mainly getting carbohydrates and sugar—not what you want, explains Rumsey. "Smoothies, on the other hand, utilize whole fruits and vegetables, including the skin, seeds, and pulp, which means that you retain all of the fiber. By swapping your daily juice for a smoothie you can add a few more grams of fiber to your day."
Keep the Skin On
You've likely heard that fruits and veggies like potatoes, pears and apples are solid sources of fiber—but that's only the case if you consume their skins, too. To avoid ingesting any pesticide residue lurking on your eats, wash the skins thoroughly before noshing and opt for organic varieties when your budget allows.
Crack Open a Can
Pulses like beans, lentils and chickpeas are some of the most potent sources of fiber Mother Nature has to offer, serving up between 15 and 12 grams per cup. Add them to salads, soup recipes rice and veggie side dishes to reap their belly-slimming benefits.
Swap Your Cereal for Oatmeal
If you can't imagine kicking off your morning sans bowl and spoon, at least fill your bowl with slow-cooking oatmeal. Don't have 30+ minutes to spare each morning waiting for them to cook? Whip up a batch of overnight oats. To make a batch, fill a Tupperware container with oats, toppings, and a liquid like milk or water. Then you throw it in the refrigerator overnight. While you're sleeping, the flavors fuse together so all you have to do is scarf it down next morning—no cooking required! Check out our 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes to get those creative culinary juices flowing!
Try a Bean-Based Pasta Alternative
Carb-a-holic? Can't say no to pasta night? Addicted to spaghetti? Good! So long as you slurp down a bean-based noodle like Banza (8 g fiber/serving) or Explore Cuisine Organic Black Bean Spaghetti (12 g fiber/serving) you'll be one step closer to hitting your daily fiber goal. To amp up the fiber intake of your meal further, add some sauteed fiber-rich veggies to your pasta bowl. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas are all solid picks and pair well with a variety of sauces.
Swap Chips for Popcorn
Toss out those greasy, fiber-void bags of chips and replace them with a bag of popcorn, advises Rumsey. "Many people don't realize that air-popped popcorn is a whole grain, serving up 5 grams of fiber and just 120 calories in a 4 cup serving. A far cry from regular potato chips which pack just over 1 gram of fiber and 160 calories in a 1-ounce serving. Choosing popcorn for a snack will add a serving of whole grains to your day, and 5 times more fiber compared to chips. Just be sure to steer clear of popcorn doused with butter, oil, and salt, as these ingredients can negate the health benefits." Instead, try some of these 20 Delicious Ways to Dress Up Your Popcorn.
Nuts—like almonds (one of the 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss)—are most often tauted for their protein and healthy fats, but they're solid sources of fiber, too. An ounce of almonds packs 3.5 grams per ounce while the same serving size of walnuts carries 2 grams—not too shabby! Keep a bag of mixed nuts in your car and desk drawer so you're prepared with a non-perishable, filling snack whenever hunger strikes.They also make a tasty yogurt and oatmeal mix-ins.
Sneak It In
If none of these ideas appeal to your taste buds, try sneaking in fiber rich foods to your regular weekly lineup. Try using rolled oats as a substitute for breadcrumbs in recipes like meatballs, chicken nuggets, or meatloaf. Another idea: Add a tablespoon of flaxseeds or chia seeds (2-5 grams/Tbsp) to your to smoothies, salad dressings, and yogurt. And now that you know how important fiber is to your daily diet, get more great advice from these 25 Weight Loss Mantras Nutritionists Swear By!