Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant foods. It is an important nutrient with many health benefits. Eating fiber has been shown to help keep your digestive system running smoothly, support heart health and help maintain blood sugar levels that are already within the normal range. Increasing your fiber can also aid in weight loss because meals containing more fiber are digested more slowly and can help make you feel full longer 1,2.
If you think adding fiber to your diet means gnawing on cardboard, think again! We've put together 10 easy ways to help you increase your fiber intake while adding flavor and variety to your diet.
Plant foods provide two types of fiber: soluble fiber (which increases the feeling of fullness) and insoluble fiber (which aids the digestive system and promotes regularity). Peas, beans, oats, and fruits are sources of soluble fiber, and whole grains and vegetables provide the majority of insoluble fiber. Some foods provide both!
Whole grain foods are a natural source of dietary fiber. Unlike refined carbohydrates (think white bread), whole grains retain the kernel's fiber-rich outer shell, known as bran. To identify whole grains, look for these ingredients on labels: whole wheat, hard red winter wheat, barley, triticale, oats, rye, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, and bulgur. When looking for fiber-rich whole grains, not all whole grains are made the same. Read the Nutrition Facts panel to identify the fiber content for whole grains. Find 5 Easy Ways to Eat More Whole Grains.
You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but starting your day with the right kind of fuel is equally important. Choose breakfast cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving1,2,3,4 opt for whole wheat toast, or grab a handful of fiber-rich berries. Get Breakfast Ideas to Jump Start Your Day.
Avoid high-calorie, high-fat and low-fiber vending machine options by packing fiber-rich snacks. Perfect answers to an afternoon slump include whole grain crackers, granola bars, homemade trail mix (like this Super Trail Mix Recipe, mixed nuts, and dried figs or apricots. Popcorn—a whole grain—is another high-fiber snack. Learn more about Snacking Smart On the Run.
Whether added to cereal, eaten as a snack, or enjoyed as a simple dessert, fresh fruit is a sweet way to add fiber to your diet. The fruits highest in fiber include apples, berries, prunes, pears and oranges.
High-fiber legumes like beans, peas, and lentils — are among the best sources of fiber. Add one serving to your day by incorporating legumes into salads, soups, and casseroles, or puree them to make a delicious dip.
American food tends to be lower in fiber than other ethnic cuisines. Take your taste buds on an adventure and add fiber to your diet by dining on Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean fare. Tasty options include black bean burritos, hummus, tabbouleh, bean salads, and whole wheat couscous.
Pump up the fiber content of your own baked goods by using whole wheat flour in place of all purpose white flour (finely milled whole wheat pastry flour is a gentle shift) in recipes, adding oatmeal to cookies, or loading homemade muffins with raisins, berries, or bananas. Try Kashi® Zucchini Nutmeg Muffins, Kashi® Friendly Fiber Muffins, or Kashi™ Blackberry Bars to get started.
Most Americans eat far less than the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. Yet making rapid changes to your diet is not advised. Increase fiber gradually to prevent excess gas and bloating and to allow your gastrointestinal tract time to adjust.
As you increase your fiber intake, increase your fluids as well. Fiber pulls water into the intestines. Without adequate hydration, fiber can actually aggravate rather than alleviate constipation. So try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. With a little creativity, some pre-planning, and a few new additions to your grocery list, you'll be well on your way to meeting your daily fiber requirements with wholesome, delicious foods. Just be sure not to overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. Pick one or two ideas to try each week and stick with those that work best for you and your family.