5 Tips for Increasing Fiber in Your Diet
May 10, 2021
Eating foods high in fiber is important and beneficial for a variety of reasons. But, what kind of foods contain fiber, and how much fiber should you consume each day?
What Is Fiber?
The fiber in our diet, or “dietary fiber,” comes from the structural part of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains) that our bodies are unable to digest. It passes through our digestive system mostly intact. There are two main categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble.
What Is the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gummy, gel-like consistency that moves through the digestive system at a slower rate. Rich sources of soluble fiber include oats, oat bran, barley, legumes, oranges, apricots, mangoes, pears, apples, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes, turnips, ground flaxseeds, chia and avocado.
Insoluble fiber is often thought of as the “scrub brush” of our digestive system. It is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Why Is Fiber Important?
Eating foods high in fiber is important and beneficial for a variety of reasons. Fiber:
- Improves blood sugar levels: Fiber slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the absorption of glucose (sugar).
- Lowers cholesterol: Soluble fiber helps lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol by binding it and removing it from the body. Studies have shown that eating 5–10 grams of soluble fiber daily can help lower LDL cholesterol by at least 5–11 points.
- Helps manage weight: Foods high in fiber are more filling and are slower to digest, so they help keep you full longer.
- Reduces constipation: Insoluble fiber moves food through the intestines faster by adding bulk to stools, while soluble fiber absorbs water and makes the stools soft and easy to pass.
- Can improve loose stools: Soluble fiber can absorb excess water from the colon, which also adds bulk to stools, resulting in more formed, less watery stools.
- Feeds our good gut bacteria: We can’t digest fiber, but our gut bacteria can, and it is an important source of food for our gut bacteria.
How Much Fiber Should I Consume Each Day?
The current recommendations for adults is 25–30 grams of total fiber every day. Our food labels don’t distinguish between soluble and insoluble fiber, but since both types are beneficial it is important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Five Tips for Increasing Fiber in Your Diet
1. Choose high-fiber snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, popcorn, hummus or edamame.
2. Eat whole fruits and vegetables rather than drinking juice (this includes both juicing and store-bought juice).
3. Add beans, nuts, seeds, avocados, and/or whole grains to salads.
4. Add ground flaxseed, chia seeds, nuts, and berries to oatmeal or yogurt; or make chia seed pudding (recipe below).
5. When baking, replace half of the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour, or choose recipes that contain whole grains and whole grain flours.
Important: Increase fiber in your diet slowly, and be sure to drink plenty of water!
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Three-Ingredient Chia Seed Pudding
By Yumna Jawad at FeelGoodFoodie.net
Yield: 1 serving
- 2 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener, optional
- Strawberries or other fruits for topping
- Pour ingredients into a jar and mix well. Let settle for 2–3 minutes, then mix again very well until you see no clumping.
- Cover the jar and store in fridge overnight or for at least 2 hours.
- When you're ready to eat it, top with your favorite fruit and enjoy cold!
Calories: 155kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Sodium: 166mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 5g | Calcium: 301mg | Iron: 1.9mg
*Nutrition label is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator and will vary based on specific ingredients you use.