On the diet front, it's not easy to do everything right. So a bunch of researchers recently set out to see whether one simple dietary suggestion could effectively help people lose weight without losing their minds—an annoying side effect of taking on a super-complicated diet.
In the study, researchers recruited 240 adults with metabolic syndrome, a combination of health conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, and a body mass index in the obese range. Some (119) of them were asked to follow the American Heart Association's dietary guidelines. Unlike, say, an uber-low-calorie, short-term juice cleanse, the guidelines are designed to promote healthy, sustainable eating habits that promote heart health. There are more than a dozen rules, which include eating lots of fruits and vegetables, choosing fat-free and low-fat dairy products, minimizing intake of partially hydrogenated fats and sugary foods and drinks, choosing foods prepared with little or no salt, and seriously cutting back on alcohol intake.
Meanwhile, the rest of the participants (121) were given just one simple direction: Eat more fiber—at least 30 grams per day. There were no exercise requirements or recommendations for either group.
After 12 months, the participants weighed in. People on the AHA diet lost about 5.95 pounds. Meanwhile, the eat-more-fiber group lost an average of about 4.6 pounds.
Although the AHA diet produced a bit more weight loss than the fiber diet, the simple, single-rule diet still helped people lose enough weight to maybe go down a pants size, depending on body shape—which isn't too shabby for a diet that involves eating more instead of less, and no crazy exercise regime. Researchers say the fiber thing may have worked because people swapped out less healthy foods for higher-fiber and more filling options. They say this simplified approach to weight reduction is a "reasonable alternative" for people who struggle to follow more complicated diets. (So basically everyone.)
If you want to lose a few pounds on the fiber diet, add fiber to your diet slowly—no 30-grams-in-one-meal business. And no cheating with supplements. Overdo it on fiber in a single sitting, and you'll feel bloated, gassy, and generally gross. Instead, sprinkle fibrous foods throughout your daily diet (fruits like apples, which contain about 4 or 5 grams of fiber a piece, and veggies, like cooked spinach, which packs about 4 grams per cup) to fill up without filling out, and lose weight over time.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.