Focus on Fiber for Reducing Weight

Weight loss is often something the patients I see want to achieve, and many have tried numerous “diets” ranging from Paleo to Weight Watchers to calorie counting, and the list goes on. It seems there are endless weight loss plans, yet rarely (only about 5% of people who want to lose weight do so and successfully maintain their weight loss) do they result in long-term success.

A better, and perhaps, easier way to shed unwanted pounds is to focus on fiber. What is fiber? Fiber is non-digestible carbohydrate. It is found in plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. A plant-based diet can help you lose weight without calorie counting or exercise (1).

Fiber is beneficial for weight loss because high-fiber foods tend to be lower in calories (for example, an entire pound of most vegetables equals just 100-150 calories...that’s a lot of food!). High-fiber diets also appear to increase the amount of calories you burn after a meal (2). In addition, high-fiber diets reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Aim for at least 40 grams of fiber daily. You can achieve this by eating a variety of plant-based foods every day. Beans and lentils are particularly high in fiber and there is research showing that simply adding beans to your diet (without making any other changes) can result in weight loss (3). For additional information about fiber-rich foods and easy meal ideas, see our “Healthy Weight” handout.

  1. Barnard ND, Levin SM, Yokoyama Y. A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. Published online on January 21, 2015.

  2. Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Turner-McGrievy G, Lanou AJ, Glass J. The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. Am J Med. 2005;118:991-997.

  3. Mollard RC, Luhovyy BL, Panahi S, et al. Regular consumption of pulses for 8 weeks reduces metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese adults. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 1:S111-22.