On top of scrambling a dozen egg whites, grilling four chicken breasts, opening three cans of tuna, and scheduling your pre- and post-workout supplements and shakes, fiber might be the furthest thing from your mind. But it could also be just the weight-loss edge you need. Along with providing myriad health benefits, dietary fiber can help you control hunger and lose weight.

How Does Fiber Help?

“First is the chew factor,” notes Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports-medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Foods that have fiber take longer to eat.”

“Second, foods that have fiber take a little longer to empty from the digestive tract, so you feel fuller longer,” adds Bonci, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of the ADA’s Guide to Better Digestion.

“Third, foods that have soluble fiber, such as oatmeal and mature beans, help stabilize blood sugar over the day, so you don’t feel as hungry,” she explains.

Seems like you’d be foolish not to have fiber if you’re trying to control your weight. Since fiber also helps prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other maladies, you should be screaming for fiber by now. But if you think getting more fiber means forcing down bowl after bowl of lettuce and prunes, you’ll probably just be screaming.

Relax, because Bonci has several painless ways for you to increase your dietary fiber.

FIber Beware

Bonci cautions: “Don’t go to extremes with fiber. If you haven’t been eating fiber, add it gradually, starting with one meal per day.” You could change your cereal. You could add a vegetable to dinner. You could add chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to a salad.

Switch to whole foods and whole grains. That means the whole apple instead of apple juice, 100% whole-wheat bread instead of white or “wheat” bread, a potato with skin instead of instant mashed, old-fashioned oatmeal instead of sugary puffs.

You don’t have to eat prunes, either, although now they’re called dried plums.

Read on for a selection of foods that will boost your diet’s fiber content and help you feel full for longer. 

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