Are you eating enough high fiber foods? Probably not. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults in the United States consume about half of the recommended daily intake of fiber, with less than 5% actually getting the recommended amount on a daily basis. Meanwhile, fiber plays an important role in weight management, heart health, blood sugar management, cancer prevention and proper digestion. It’s clear that fiber is important, so how do you get enough every single day? In this article, we talk about high fiber foods and how to get more of them in your diet.
First, what is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. It includes a broad spectrum of plant-based material that the body can’t digest. There are two types:
Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. You can find soluble fiber in foods such as oats, beans, peas, apples, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, helps food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found in foods like whole grains, nuts, legumes, cauliflower, and potatoes.
How much fiber do you need?
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest the following amounts of fiber:
- Women under 50: 25 to 28 grams per day
- Men under 50: 31 to 34 grams per day
- Women 51 and older: 22 grams per day
- Men 51 and older: 28 grams per day
- Children ages 1 to 18 should eat 14 to 31 grams of fiber per day, depending on their age and sex.
What are the benefits of eating high fiber foods?
Fiber helps manage many chronic diseases and ailments such as diabetes, high cholesterol and constipation. In fact, fiber is probably best known for its role in preventing constipation, since it helps push things through the colon and keeps your bowels regular. But there are many other benefits as well. Below we share just a few. If you want a more detailed summary of the many benefits of consuming high fiber foods, check out this blog post.
Control your blood glucose
Eating high fiber foods can help regulate blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, soluble fiber in particular can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Additionally, a healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes altogether.
Increased fiber consumption may decrease the risk of colon and breast cancers. Eating more high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, can further decrease cancer risk. Fiber also helps keep gut microbiota in check, which helps build the immune system since bacteria feeds off fiber.
Manage your weight
Eating the right amount of fiber can help you lose weight, because fiber-rich foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you’re likely to consume less food and stay satisfied longer. High-fiber foods also generally take longer to eat and are less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
When you incorporate high fiber foods like oatmeal into your diet, it can help absorb cholesterol, preventing it from getting absorbed by your body. Adding more fiber into your diet can therefore help reduce cholesterol levels, improving heart health. Soluble fiber can reduce both “bad” LDL and overall cholesterol. It does this by binding with cholesterol particles in the digestive system and moving them out of the body before they are absorbed. In addition, when you eat more fruits and vegetables, it’s likely that you will eat less processed foods.
What foods are high in fiber?
A high fiber food has at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. Some examples are:
- Whole grains (i.e. 100% whole wheat bread, 100% oats). One cup of 100% cooked oatmeal contains 5 grams of fiber.
- Prunes. 1 cup of pitted prunes contain 12 grams of fiber.
- Beans. One cup of cooked red, kidney, or pinto beans contain at least 15 grams of fiber.
- Berries. One cup of blackberries or raspberries contain 8 or more grams of fiber.
- Skins of fruits and veggies. An apple with the skin contains about 5 grams of fiber.
- Edamame. 1 cup contains about 11 grams of fiber. We love to snack on these!
- Cauliflower. 1 cup offers 5 grams of fiber. We love using riced cauliflower along with rice to add volume and fiber to meals.
- Chia seeds. 1 oz of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber. We love this brand for chia seed pudding!
- Almonds. 1/2 cup offers 6 grams of fiber. We love these for easy snacking!
- Flaxseeds. 1/4 cup contains almost 12 grams of fiber per serving.
- Popcorn. 1 cup offers 17 grams of fiber. We like plain popcorn or this brand, and add your own seasonings to it!
- Chickpeas. 1 cup of chickpeas contains 24 grams of fiber.
- Avocados. There are 9 grams of fiber in a single avocado. We love them in salads, sandwiches, smoothies or our fav, avocado toast!
High fiber recipes from our meal planning program
We offer an amazing interactive meal planning program that has thousands of delicious recipes, including ones that contain high fiber foods. Click the button below to learn more. In the meantime, here are some high fiber recipes you can incorporate into your diet, to increase your daily fiber intake.
- Baked oatmeal cups
- Banana coconut overnight oats
- Roasted chickpeas – great for snacking!
- PB&J smoothie
- Avocado hummus sandwich
- Overnight chia pudding with oats and berries
- Lentil soup
Other ways to add fiber to your diet
Consider the notion of “crowding out” when it comes to adding more fiber into your diet. The more fiber-rich ingredients you add to your plate, the more you’ll naturally crowd out more processed, nutrient-devoid foods. With this, you want to start slow. Adding too much fiber at once can cause bloating and constipation. Add 1-2 servings of fiber a day to your regular diet. Do this for a week, let your body adjust, then add another serving the following week.
Should I be taking a fiber supplement?
It’s best to get fiber from food, because supplements don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that fiber-rich foods do. But fiber supplements can contribute to the recommended daily intake when food isn’t enough. As always, speak to your doctor before starting any fiber supplement.
Fiber supplements are not intended to replace fiber found naturally in food. But, if you are not getting enough (perhaps because you are getting older and are eating smaller meals), fiber supplements may be a reasonable option. They also promote growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which helps strengthen your immune system and helps overall digestion.
Fiber supplements can cause abdominal bloating and gas, at least initially and if taken all at once. It is recommended that you start slowly and increase from there. Be sure to also drink plenty of water. If you have intestinal problems, such as a history of a bowel blockage or Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor before adding a fiber supplement to your diet.
It’s also important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure that a fiber supplement will not interact with any medications you take. Fiber supplements can decrease the absorption of certain medications, such as aspirin and others. Fiber supplements can also reduce blood sugar levels, which may require an adjustment in your medications or insulin if you have diabetes.
Meet with a dietitian
If you need help incorporating more fiber rich foods into your diet, a Registered Dietitian (RD) can help! An RD can assess nutritional status and other biomarkers, and help you gain a true understanding of your overall health. Having the support of a professional is key to making informed decisions and devising a treatment plan that is best suited to your unique needs.
Click the button below to schedule an appointment using our online scheduling tool.