Most people are not consuming enough fiber in their daily diet, especially if their meals come from fast-food restaurants. Dieticians typically recommend 35 grams for women and 38 grams for men daily, which are best consumed through whole foods.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber, which is also known as roughage, is the indigestible part of plant foods.
Functional fiber, which is the type of fiber extracted from foods or produced synthetically. Sometimes this type of fiber is called added fiber, found in protein bars and cereals.
Fiber is a natural and healthy carbohydrate. When you look at nutrition labels, you will notice that they may say soluble or insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber also plays a vital role in both weight loss and preventing obesity.
What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
Soluble fiber absorbs water and slows down digestion, making you feel fuller longer, while insoluble fiber speeds up digestion. Each type of fiber has its own benefits.
Soluble fiber can be found in whole foods like barley, seeds, nuts, peas, oat bran, and some fruits and vegetables, like avocados, grapes, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
Health benefits of a high fiber diet:
- Fiber can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber moves food through your digestive system minimizing exposure to potential carcinogens because waste is removed more efficiently.
- Fiber lowers the risk of breast cancer. Eating lots of fiber binds estrogen, which is associated with breast cancer development.
- Fiber helps you sleep better!
- High fiber diets help you feel full, helping you to maintain weight.
- Fiber aids in burning more calories, even without extra gym time.
- Fiber will reduce your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Fiber binds circulating cholesterol, then your body eliminates it.
- Fiber gives you energy when eaten with protein, keeping your blood glucose levels steady.
- Fiber promotes heart health, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
- Fiber prevents and relieves constipation.
Are you wondering how to boost your dietary fiber intake?
- Add kidney, pinto, or black beans to soups and salads.
- Talk to your doctor before adding a fiber supplement to your diet.
- Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day—opting for fresh, rather than canned, which have a lower fiber content.
- 1 apple
- ½ cup of berries
- 1 pear
- 1 medium sweet potato
- Brown rice
- Bran muffins
- Green peas
As you start to increase your fiber intake, remember to drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Fluids help your body digest fiber. Otherwise, you may get symptoms like cramping, gas, or bloating.
Read nutrition labels to track how much fiber you are eating. If you aren’t getting enough, start slowly and focus on eating whole foods.
Signs you need more fiber in your diet:
- You’re having some trouble in the restroom. While constipation may be caused by a number of factors, it’s often due to a lack of fiber. Drink plenty of water and add in fiber to reduce constipation.
- You’re still hungry after meals. Fiber fills you up, so if you find yourself still hungry after consuming a meal, you may just need to add more fiber.
- Your cholesterol is high. Upping your fiber intake may help bring cholesterol down, decreasing triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol.
- You have inflammation. When blood sugars are stabilized, it will help your body avoid spikes causing an inflammatory response. Stick to whole plant foods and stay away from sugary starches.
- You’re low on energy and not sleeping well if you wake up constantly tired. If you fill up on protein and fat only, you will start to feel weak and exhausted. Fiber balances your diet by giving you energy and eliminating waste from your body.
- You have acne. Fiber will soak up the toxins in your blood, then eliminate them into your digestive tract instead of through your pores.
Fiber-rich breakfast options
Pineapple Green Smoothie
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ⅓ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1 cup frozen banana slices (about 1 medium banana)
- ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
Add all ingredients to a blender, and enjoy! If you would like it a bit sweeter, add some honey! This smoothie has 9.8 grams of dietary fiber.
- ½ medium avocado, mashed
- 1 slice whole-grain bread, toasted
- 2 teaspoons everything bagel seasoning
- Pinch of salt
Spread avocado on toast and top with salt and seasoning. This option has 5.9 grams of dietary fiber.
Quick Fiber Recipe Options
Veggie and Hummus Sandwich
- 2 slices of whole-grain bread
- 3 tablespoons hummus
- ¼ avocado, mashed
- ½ cup mixed greens
- ¼ medium sliced red bell pepper
- ¼ cup sliced cucumber
- ¼ cup shredded carrot
Spread one slice of bread with hummus and the other slice with mashed avocado. Layer the sandwich with greens, bell pepper, cucumber, and carrot. Slice in half and enjoy! This option has 12.7 grams of dietary fiber.
Spinach and artichoke dip pasta
- 8 ounces whole-wheat rotini
- 1 (5 oz.) package baby spinach, chopped
- 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, cut in chunks
- ¾ cup reduced-fat milk
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, squeezed dry, and chopped
Boil pasta according to the package directions and drain. Next, combine spinach and 1 tablespoon of water in a large saucepan, cooking over medium heat. Stir the spinach occasionally until just wilted (approximately 2 minutes). Transfer to a small bowl. Add cream cheese and milk to the pan; whisk until the cream cheese is melted. Add Parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper; cook, whisking until thickened and bubbling. Drain as much liquid as possible from the spinach. Stir spinach into the sauce, along with artichokes and pasta. Cook until warmed through. Enjoy! This option has 7.9 grams of dietary fiber.
There are many fiber-rich recipes available for meals, snacks, and even desserts! Check out EatingWell.com for more ideas.
For more creative ways to eat more vegetables, check out this post on our website!
This information is for educational and informational purposes only. Any recommendation is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Please consult with a physician with questions and concerns.