10 Simple Ways to Increase Fiber in Your Diet

10 Simple Ways to Increase Fiber in Your Diet

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.

  1. Choose a wide variety of fiber sources

    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!

  2. Pick whole grain foods over refined carbohydrates

    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.

  3. Begin your day with a fiber boost

    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.

  4. Pick high-fiber snacks when the midday munchies hit

    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.

  5. Add fresh fruit to every meal

    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.

  6. Load up on legumes

    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.

  7. Explore the globe

    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.

  8. Bake your own high-fiber goodies

    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.

  9. Take it slow

    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.

  10. Don't forget to hydrate

    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.

1 Marlett JA, McBurney MI, Slavin JL, et al. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc 2002;102(7):993-1000.
2 Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev 2009;67(4):188–205.
3 US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. 7th edition. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 2010;1-122.
4 Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Jenkins DJA, et al Using cereal to increase dietary fiber intake to the recommended level and the effect of fiber on bowel function in healthy persons consuming North American diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:1256-1262.

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