High fiber foods provide some of the most important substances that our bodies need to process food and the substance fills us up. The good news is that foods high in fiber are so filling, they help with weight loss in the process.
Fiber slows digestion and helps keep blood glucose levels steady for an extended period of time. And because it’s so filling and doesn’t cause a glucose roller coaster ride, it helps keep us from overeating (1).
I’m sure many of the “diets” you’ve tried in the past made you feel hungry like fury! If you want to lose weight by eating and feeling full instead, you definitely need to get more fiber in your diet.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is an indigestible part of a plant that helps the intestines soak up water and “keep things moving,” if you catch my drift (2). Fiber is found predominantly in the following carbohydrates:
- Whole grains
Just like you’ve always been told, a healthy portion of a food’s fiber is found in the peel, so eat the apple and potato skins! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can eat the fibrous peel of your kiwi and banana (3). Yes, really!
Fiber falls into one of two categories: it’s either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and some of it is broken down in the body. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and passes through the body almost entirely intact.
Key Point: Fiber is an indigestible part of a plant that fills you up and keeps you “regular.” The best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Benefits of High Fiber Foods
Studies show high fiber food lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber moderates blood sugar levels, so it’s usually recommended as part of a diabetes prevention plan. (4).
Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels by sweeping it out of the body. As fiber moves through your body, it collects bile and cholesterol and pushes them outside the body, where I’m sure you’d rather they be (5).
Because it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation and regulates blood sugar, fiber also reduces your overall heart disease risk (6). Its heart-protective benefits make it a great choice for your everyday diet.
And of course, foods rich in fiber assist with weight loss, which is why we’re here talking about it. Because of its bulking effect, fiber makes you feel full so you don’t eat too much (7).
Key point: Fiber lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood sugar, and fights inflammation. Its also your secret weapon for weight loss.
The Best High Fiber Foods
The Institute of Medicine recommends 25 grams of fiber per day for women ages 19-50 and 38 grams for men ages 14-50 (8).
Most people in the US don’t get enough, so chances are you aren’t either. To boost your fiber intake, here’s a list of some of the best high fiber foods:
#1. Boiled split peas, 16.3 grams per 1 cup serving
I know what you’re thinking. Peas, really? You’re not selling me on this whole fiber thing with foods like that, but hear me out. If fiber-rich foods for weight loss had a king, boiled split peas would receive the crown.
Split peas are a nutrition powerhouse! Legumes like split peas provide an excellent nutritional profile that make you feel full and satisfied.
Aside from providing over half of your daily recommended amount of fiber, cooked split peas also contain considerable amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. They’re a substantial source of plant protein, with a higher satiating effect than meat (9).
#2. Lentils, 15.6 grams per 1 cup serving
Although we’ve already discussed how a fiber-rich diet supports weight loss, one study specifically shows that eating a serving of lentils every day leads to weight loss (10). The participants in the study didn’t make any other adjustments to their diet aside from eating a serving of lentils every day.
I’m not saying lentils are a “miracle” weight loss cure, but the fact that you can simply add lentils to your diet and lose weight is very encouraging. I’m a fan of any tweaks you can make to your diet and exercise regimen that will bring you closer to your goals.
Because of their mild taste, you can add lentils into so many dishes to boost fiber content. The hearty legumes absorb the taste of the foods they’re mixed with, so they never compete for flavor.
#3. Cooked black beans, 15 grams per 1 cup serving
Black beans were part of the same study as lentils that show legumes reinforce your weight loss efforts. They help control your food intake and also significantly lower bad cholesterol levels.
In addition to their high fiber content, black beans provide a potent dose of flavonoids, which give them their deep dark color (11). Those antioxidants fight disease and perform anti-cancer functions in the body (12).
To maximize the benefits of black beans, prepare them with vegetables and seasonings, but don’t add a bunch of heavy ingredients. Pair black beans with other nutrient powerhouses, like quinoa, to emphasize their health benefits. Black beans are very inexpensive, making it easy to lose weight without losing an entire paycheck.
#4 Cooked garbanzo beans, 12 grams per 1 cup serving
After reading this section, you’re going to want to put garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, into your regular rotation. Chickpeas have a low glycemic index and a high fiber content, which is great for everyone, especially people with diabetes (13).
The high fiber, as we’ve mentioned, regulates blood glucose levels. The low glycemic load helps prevent a sharp rise in insulin. In other words, black beans are a great addition to a healthy diabetic diet.
Garbanzo beans are a superior source of protein for those on vegan and gluten-free diets. They also contain high levels of iron, B6, and magnesium.
To put chickpeas into your rotation, add them a topping to salads and cottage cheese, puree them into hummus, or bake them into snacks. If you eat a vegan diet, make sure you combine chickpeas with a whole grain to get all your amino acids (14).
#5 Boiled artichoke, 10.3 grams per medium artichoke
A fiber superstar, the artichoke is the unsung hero of the produce aisle. I’m willing to bet you’ve never purchased a fresh artichoke before, but I’d challenge you to reconsider. Even though they appear complex, they’re actually quite simple to prepare and delicious to eat (15).
If you’re still unsure about this vegetable, you can buy ready-to-eat artichokes in a can, jar, or frozen package. Just make sure you rinse them well before adding them to your meals.
And you’re going to want to start adding them to your meals, because artichokes are high in phenolic compounds (16), an antioxidant with anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties (17). This oft-ignored superfood deserves much more attention for its health properties than it gets.
#6 Avocado, 10 grams per 1 cup serving
Most often hailed for its healthy fat content, the avocado is a fiber champion too, to the tune of 40% of your recommended daily intake. Eat an avocado on whole wheat toast for breakfast, and you should easily be able to reach your fiber goals for the day.
Avocados create a significant reduction in bad (LDL) cholesterol (18), even though they’re fatty. They contain monounsaturated fatty acids, the type of fat that actually protects your body from disease.
Don’t think you’re doing your body a favor by scooping up your favorite guacamole with tortilla chips though, because the saturated fat in the chips negates the avocado’s heart-friendly benefits. Slice your avocado up over salads, tacos, and sandwiches, or add it as a thickening agent to smoothies (check out my Avocado Detox Smoothie).
#7 Guava, 9 grams per 1 cup serving
If you’ve never tried guava before, this is your chance to try something new. Like guava, other tropical fruit such as mango and persimmons are high in fiber content to help you lose weight.
On top of fiber, guava contains antioxidants for free radical elimination, Vitamin C for immunity, and potassium for heart protection. With its high nutrition content and low calorie profile, guava gives you more bang for your proverbial nutritional buck. What that really means is they’re weight loss friendly.
Studies show the exotic guava lowers blood pressure, lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol, and increases good (HDL) cholesterol (19). You don’t have to travel to a tropical location to grab some heart-healthy guava. You can get them at most local grocery stores.
#8 Raspberries, 8 grams per 1 cup serving
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t take much convincing to get me to eat raspberries, so I’m excited that they made our high fiber list. Not only do raspberries have a satisfying amount of fiber in them, but they also have a high concentration of immune-boosting vitamin C.
Research provides compelling evidence about the health-protective benefits of raspberries. Raspberries are proven to help prevent obesity, protect the heart, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood sugar (20). Sweet!
I’m perfectly content eating raw raspberries straight out of the carton (or from the bush) or sprinkling them over my oatmeal. You can also buy them frozen and add them to your morning smoothie or infused water.
#9 Whole wheat spaghetti, 6.3 grams per cooked cup
Spaghetti is a favorite comfort food for many Americans that they never grow out of, but with a few tweaks you can make it healthier. To improve the fiber value of your spaghetti and create a heartier meal, all you need to do is switch out the white angel hair pasta for a whole-grain version (21).
The difference between white pasta and whole-grain pasta happens during processing. Whole grain noodles keep the grain’s protein intact. That same grain nutrient-rich protein is stripped to make regular spaghetti white (22).
You really don’t want to miss out on those benefits of the whole grain kernel. The kernel that makes the noodle brown is really filling, which is beneficial for weight control. It also has a prebiotic effect, feeding your good gut bacteria and keeping it in balance.
#10 Pearled barley, 6 grams per cooked cup
Another fairly underrated, yet versatile whole grain, barley goes well with all kinds of dishes. With its high fiber content, it’s most notably used to bulk up soups.
In addition to fiber, barley is an excellent source of manganese and selenium. (23). Numerous studies show barley’s ability to lower blood glucose and insulin levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (24).
Like all the foods in this list, barley slows digestion so you eat fewer calories. But it also has a notable ability to destroy visceral fat, the dangerous fat that surrounds your organs.
#11 Boiled broccoli, 5.1 grams per cooked cup
A diet rich in broccoli results in lower incidence of chronic disease, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Don’t throw away the stem or leaves either, because the healing elements are present in them too. (25)
The same goes for other cruciferous vegetables too like cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. The same components (namely, the glucosinolates) in these vegetables help prevent cancer (26).
Your mom was right when she told you to eat your broccoli. As much as you feel like protesting broccoli on principle, your whole body will thank you for the potent concentrations of vitamins C, K, and A, folate, and potassium. For minimal calories, you get a whopping dose of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (27).
#12 Brussels sprouts, 3.3 grams per cup
Another cruciferous vegetable with anticancer properties, Brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates. They produce detoxifying enzymes that rid cells of toxins (28).
One of Brussels sprout’s most prominent nutrients is Vitamin K, coming in at nearly double your daily needs per serving. Its vitamin K and calcium content help keep your bones strong.
To bring out the best nutrient content in Brussels sprouts, it’s best to steam them. Just make sure you don’t overcook them or you’ll cook the nutrients right out of them. You can eat them plain or mix them with a little bit of maple syrup and walnuts.
#13 Chia seeds, 4g per tablespoon
Chia seeds offer a high fiber content in just one little tablespoon. No other ingredient on this list has a comparable fiber profile in relation to the serving size, so it’s a really easy way to add fiber to any meal with little effort.
One scoop of chia seeds also provides an excellent source of protein and omega 3s. The tiny black seeds support the brain, reduce inflammation, and protect the heart (29). The way they soak up water into a gel-like substance shows you the kind of sustainable energy they provide.
Chia seeds are easy to throw into any meal. Add a scoop to your morning smoothies or overnight oats for a nutrition boost. They’ve become quite easy to find in grocery stores, and you can usually find them in the baking aisle or bulk section.
#14 Swiss chard, 3.7 grams per cooked cup
Dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and collard greens are impeccable high fiber low calorie foods for your diet. When you follow a clean eating plan, you can have as many leafy greens as your heart desires.
Swiss chard is a prosperous source of antioxidants and vitamins to help fight disease. One particular flavonoid in Swiss chard, syringic acid, is very efficient at regulating blood sugar. When you combine that flavonoid with the fiber content, you get a diabetic-friendly leafy green (30).
Although you’re probably not used to Swiss chard and have never gone out of your way to buy it, I hope this changes your mind. It’s a super easy vegetable to add to soups and salads. You can also use the larger leaves as stand-in taco “shells” and “buns” to hold meat.
#15 Almonds, 3.5 grams per ounce
Nuts and seeds are great sources of fiber, but almonds happen to be the best source of fiber overall, ounce for ounce. Just a small handful of almonds gives you not only fiber but also healthy fat, protein, vitamin E, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, and magnesium (31).
If you want to get the most out of your almonds, eat them with the brown skins intact. The skins hold 20 of an almond’s beneficial flavonoids. It’s best to eat the whole nut naked, without any additives like salt or oil.
You may have seen commercials or packaging labels that tout almond’s health benefits, and there’s good reason for that. Studies show that almonds significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Each weekly serving of nuts appears to reduce heart disease risk by 8.3%.
Tips for Adding More Fiber to Your Diet
Now that we’ve built the case for the highest fiber foods, you might be wondering how to pad your diet with more of the nutrient. Eating clean is a natural way to get your essential nutrients, but you can still be more intentional about what you do with this high fiber food list:
Use fiber “fillers.” Foods like chia seeds, lentils, and barley are easy to incorporate into so almost any meal, adding extra fiber for minimal effort. Before you make dinner tonight (and any night), ask yourself if you can add one of the foods on this list to the meal to sprinkle in more fiber.
Drink water. In order for your system to use and process fiber properly, it needs adequate water. Drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces to maximize the full potential of fiber.
Reference this list. Keep this list of high fiber low carb foods handy when you’re meal planning or grocery shopping. It serves as a reminder to increase the fiber content in your meals.
Key point: Use high fiber foods to “fill” your meals and your belly. Don’t forget to drink adequate water to maximize the benefits.
If you follow a clean eating plan that’s heavy in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you should be able to maintain adequate fiber intake. Track your food intake for a few days so you don’t have to guess, because
Although you can use fiber supplements to get more of the nutrient into your body, I recommend getting your fiber from whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes provide fiber inside of a complete package of phytonutrients and minerals instead of being in isolated form.
Fiber is important, and I might even go out on a limb and say “fiber is sexy.” Food high in fiber does so much good for the body, it’s very attractive. So, go give some love to the best foods with high fiber on this list and they’ll give you love back.
Most foods listed are from this chart: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948