There are so many different dietary theories out there, where do you even begin? Low-carb, carb-free, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, low-FODMAP – the list is seemingly endless. One you may not have considered is a low-fat, high-fiber diet. Many of us are currently (and likely unknowingly) consuming more fat and less fiber than recommended by dietary guidelines.
Fat is a macronutrient, helping to keep you feeling satisfied after eating, supporting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and contributing to brain development and overall health. There are four types of fats found in food: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats.
- Monounsaturated fats are heart healthy and can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats include the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids required in the diet. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and soy.
- Saturated fats come from animal-derived foods and tropical oils, and because they’re associated with heart disease and weight gain, it’s recommended that they be limited in your diet. Unlike mono- and polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature.
- Trans fats are recommended to be avoided completely, as they are inflammatory and linked to heart disease. Trans fats can be found in fried and processed foods.
A low-fat diet is not one that eliminates fat altogether. Instead, it emphasizes low-fat foods and increased awareness of fat sources, with the goal of working toward smaller portions of fatty foods. This type of diet can also help you if your goals include maintaining or losing weight.
A successful low-fat diet prioritizes whole, plant-based foods that are naturally lower in fat, especially compared to animal-based foods that contain saturated fats and processed foods that may contain trans fats.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down and digested. It comes in two forms, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, and boasts many health benefits, including keeping your bowel movements regular, lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, decreasing your risk of developing heart disease and some cancers, controlling blood sugar levels, and maintaining your weight.
The Mayo Clinic’s daily fiber recommendations for adults are:
- Men 50 and under: 38 grams
- Women 50 and under: 25 grams
- Men 51 and over: 30 grams
- Women 51 and over: 21 grams
Many people are not meeting these daily recommendations, but it can be simple to do! One of the simplest ways to increase your fiber intake is to eat more whole plant sources of fiber, like legumes, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
You may want to take it slow when staring to incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet, to avoid digestive discomfort. Be sure to drink plenty of water as you increase your fiber consumption in order to help keep things moving along through the digestive tract.
Six Low-Fat, High-Fiber Foods
If when you think of low-fat and high-fiber foods, you envision boring and brown processed bars or fiber supplements, instead imagine an abundance of colorful plant-forward foods that meet your fiber and other nutrient needs with plenty of flavors.
Many packaged foods are labeled with health and nutrient claims like “low-fat,” “reduced-fat,” “light,” and “fat-free” on food labels, but beware ‒ these items often contain artificial ingredients and additives like sugars, salt, and thickeners to replicate the filling feeling that fats provide.
Remember, fat is a vital macronutrient! Fat is often viewed in a negative light, but this macronutrient is just as essential as protein and carbs. It allows your body to store energy and absorb and transport fat-soluble vitamins, and it fuels your brain – which is almost 60% fat.
Beans are a super-affordable source of plant-based protein and fiber. There are many varieties to choose from; common types include garbanzo beans, black beans, and red and white kidney beans. One cup of garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) contains 12g of fiber, and one cup of cooked kidney beans contains 16g of fiber. Beans make a delicious addition to salads, soups, and stews.
Berries are some of the highest-fiber fruits per serving. In addition, they are naturally low in fat and high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. One cup of raspberries or blackberries has 8g of fiber. Add fresh or frozen berries to your smoothies for a bright, fiber-rich boost!
3. Cruciferous vegetables
It’s no secret that cruciferous vegetables are nutrient-dense; this family of fibrous vegetables contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. One cup of broccoli has about 2.4g of fiber, while one cup of Brussels sprouts has about 4g of fiber. Cruciferous veggies are easy to roast or steam, and they add color and texture to stir-fries and side dishes.
4. Whole grains
When focusing on fiber, prioritize whole grains that contain their fiber-rich outer layer (called bran). One serving, or one-half cup, of uncooked rolled oats has 4g of fiber. One cup of cooked bulgur has twice that amount, at 8g of fiber. Whole grains serve as an excellent base for breakfasts or grain bowls with endless combinations of toppings.
Seeds pack a powerful punch for their size. Just one ounce of flaxseed has 8g of fiber, and one ounce of chia seeds has 10g of fiber! Both types of these seeds are also plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle seeds on just about anything for a bit of crunch.
A small handful of raw nuts that are not heavily seasoned or roasted in added oil can be a great source of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and fiber. One ounce of pistachios contains 3g of fiber, and one ounce of almonds contains 4g of fiber. Nuts and nut butters are versatile ingredients that can easily be paired with other high-fiber foods like oats, fruits, and vegetables.
Low-Fat, High-Fiber Meal Ideas
A low-fat, high-fiber diet can be an important part of a weight-loss journey or a way to support overall healthy living. If you’re feeling inspired to incorporate more low-fat, high-fiber foods into your diet, consider the following as inspiration for all the different ways you can combine these nutrient-dense foods.
This diet plan is not meant to serve as a diagnosis or treatment for any dietary-related condition. Please seek medical advice from your health care provider to better understand your bio-individual requirements before implementing a change to your diet.
Keep breakfast simple with a nourishing bowl of berry overnight oats. Thanks to this recipe, you’ll start your day with healthy complex carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants from the colorful berries, and healthy fats. If you’d like, feel free to bulk up the fiber content even more, with another handful of mixed berries or the addition of a spoonful of peanut butter!
If you prefer a savory breakfast, try this vegan tofu scramble from Bree’s Vegan Life. This recipe is 224 calories per serving, 9g fat, and 6g of fiber. You can customize this scramble by adding whatever vegetables you like. Broccoli florets and some slices of avocado would add extra fiber and healthy fat!
Some satisfying snacks include an apple with nut butter; a tropical green smoothie; carrots and hummus; edamame dip atop whole-grain crackers; air-popped popcorn; or homemade trail mix with your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
The Bottom Line
Finding the way of eating that works for you is a journey that you must approach from your own bio-individual point of view. Even when you find a way of eating that works, it may change, depending on the seasons or your phase of life. Learning to listen to your body and understanding how to incorporate a wide variety of foods that meets your dietary requirements is work you can do with a nutrition professional, such as a dietitian, along with the support of a Health Coach.