The secret to feeling fuller longer isn’t some magic serum you place under your tongue to subdue your hunger or eating super-dense meal replacement bars either. The answer is high-fiber foods.
Fiber in general keeps you full simply because we lack the enzymes to break it down. It acts as a sort of sponge, absorbing water and forming a gel-like texture in the stomach, which slows the passage of food throughout your intestine, says Jim White, RD, ACSM HFS, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesman, owner and president of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. "Digestion is slowed and blood sugar levels are also stabilized," he adds. "Slower digestion means less hunger, which can help when you're implementing a lower calorie diet for weight loss."
But that's not all fiber can do for you. Getting the right amount of fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help you avoid disease and disability as you age, according to brand new research from The Gerontological Society of America. Fiber is the most important component to "successful aging."
"Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up," lead study author Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D. said in a press release. "That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability." You can tack on cancer, heart disease, and stroke, too.
Generally you want to get your base of 25-45 grams of fiber per day in the form of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, White suggests. Here are 15 high-fiber foods that will help regulate your appetite and metabolism, and keep you feeling young well into your Golden Years.
A study from Lund University in Sweden revealed that one particular fiber-packed food—barley—can quickly and effectively improve your health by reducing blood sugar levels and the risk for diabetes while amping your metabolism for up to 14 hours. The particular mix of dietary fibers in barley reduced appetite (not to mention, the risk for cardiovascular disease!) in study subjects.
The reason has to do with how that special mix of dietary fibers in barley kernel reacts in the gut. The researchers believe dietary fibers from the barley kernel increase the amount of good gut bacteria called prevotella copri and release important hormones that can help tell your brain that you're full.
“Try consuming more fermentable fibers,” White says, “as these will primarily be the soluble types of fiber which will decrease appetite and LDL cholesterol.” Pectins are a form of solube dietary fiber, and apple are an excellent source, namely because you eat the flesh and skin.
Raspberries are another fruit that's high on the pectin scale. While any berries—blackberries, raspberries, etc.—will give you a great boost of feel-full fiber, raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Complex whole grains leave you feeling satiated longer than breads made with white flour because they provide the longest supply of sustained energy. Plus, white flour is void of all the fiber and protein that fills you up in the first place and causes you to crash almost as quickly as your energy spikes, so it's really a no-brainer: choose whole wheat and grain varieties.
Stop underestimating beans. Legumes like black beans can help you feel more energized and fuller longer than almost any other food source. It's partically because they're incredibly high in fiber, which promotes a feeling of satiety, and partially because they're made of a complex form of carbohydrates that take your body a long time to convert into energy. Better yet, they've got no saturated fats; can't say the same about certain other proteins.
Chicory root is a type of fructan, meaning it's usually processed to yield its inulin (natural carbohydrate) and added to other food products, so you’ll find it in energy bars, low-calorie yogurts, even cottage cheese to amp up the food’s fiber content and texture, White says. It'll help you feel fuller and effectively eat less.
Aside from all the fiber lentils pack, they also boast 40g of slow-digesting quality carbohydrates. Substitute meat with this powerhouse and you'll be surprised how quickly it fills you up and keeps you satisfied.
Full of soluble fiber, peas help remove cholesterol-containing bile from your body—serving as a sort of detoxifier to ward off conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. They also provide a good amount of protein, B-vitamins, and important minerals.
Artichokes have some of the highest levels of the prebiotic inulin, which creates balance in your gut. When you have a diverse selection of bacteria, it keeps your hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin, respectively) under control so you're not starving 20 minutes after a meal.
Bananas provide functional soluble fiber and carbs in the form of inulin. One serving has about 27g of carbohydrates to supercharge your body’s muscle repair systems, plus the inulin will keep your gut health on track, as well as provide an excellent source of potassium.
When you’re craving a snack that'll fill you up without causing a huge blood sugar spike, broccoli is a great go-to. Aside from being full of fiber, broccoli has beneficial vitamins A, C, and E, as well as phytochemicals that fight inflammation and detoxify your immune system.
Whether you go for steel cut oats or packs of plain instant oatmeal in the morning, you'll be providing your body with hours of energy for fuel. Oatmeal can also help promote weight loss and lower your risk of heart disease since it's full of soluble fiber that protects your heart and arteries by expelling cholesterol.
Dietary fiber in 1 packet of plain, instant oatmeal: 4g (USDA)