How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
Jane Harrison, RD, HealthAtoZ Writer
Although we should get 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day, most Americans get only half that amount. A fiber-rich diet may help protect against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, diverticulosis, constipation and even weight gain. All fiber-rich foods contain soluble and insoluble fiber, although one type usually dominates.
Soluble fiber: absorbs water like a sponge, forming a gel-like substance. This helps lower your risk of heart disease. Soluble fibers are found in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, peas, lentils, oats and barley.
Insoluble: acts like a broom, sweeping away potentially cancerous substances. Insoluble fiber also relieves constipation. Wheat bran, which is found in bran cereals and whole wheat bread, is rich in insoluble fibers. Other sources are brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
Boost your fiber intake
When increasing fiber in your diet, there are two rules to remember. First, increase fiber gradually to allow your body time to adjust. This reduces bloating and gas. Second, drink more fluids.
Here are some ideas to help you along the way:
Fruits and vegetables
- Most produce contains 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving. Aim for at least five servings a day.
- Add grapes, mandarin oranges and red onions to a salad.
- Create veggie-based meals like winter squash stuffed with brown rice.
- Puree veggies in a blender and add to soups.
- Mix fruits like strawberries, blueberries, kiwi or mango into green salads. Make a main dish by adding grilled chicken.
- Blend fruits or veggies with yogurt and fruit juice for a breakfast smoothie.
- Pop open a can of vegetables, and heat in the microwave or on the stove.
Dried beans, peas and lentils
- Legumes are loaded with fiber. They contain 5 to 8 grams per half cup, most of which is soluble. Try lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas, chickpeas or black, pinto, navy, kidney or lima beans.
- Make lentil or bean soups a frequent meal.
- Add chickpeas to your salad.
- Puree beans and add them to soup or tomato sauce for thickening.
- Try hummus, a chickpea-based spread, on a whole wheat pita or as a vegetable dip.
- Serve cold bean salad as a side dish (mix black beans, corn and red pepper in a light vinaigrette).
- Look for 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain bread with 3g of fiber per slice.
- Opt for brown rice instead of white.
- Snack on lowfat popcorn instead of pretzels or chips.
- Make liberal use of wheat germ or ground flaxseed. Sprinkle it on cereal, in yogurt or in cottage cheese. Try putting it into casseroles. Mix it into batter for pancakes or quickbreads.
- Switch from white to whole wheat flour for baking.
- Use oats as a casserole filler or topping.
- Try different grains - like kasha, bulgur or barley - instead of white rice.