High Fiber Diet
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that the average American only eats about 15 grams of fiber per day. This is approximately 60% the recommended 21-25 grams for women and only 40% the recommended 30-38 grams for men. Fiber is commonly known to promote gut health and prevent constipation, but it has other health benefits as well. Adequate fiber intake has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, some types of cancer, and lower blood cholesterol. Fiber, an undigestible form of carbohydrate, makes you feel fuller longer to help with weight loss and diabetes management.
Switch to Whole Grains
Eating whole grains provides more fiber and nutrients per serving than refined grains.
Grains are made up of three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. As a whole, grains are loaded with nutrients like B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and dietary fiber. In refined grains, the bran and germ are removed leaving just the endosperm. This process creates a finer texture and longer shelf life, but the endosperm is primarily starch with few naturally occurring nutrients. Enriched grains add the B-vitamins and iron back to the grain, but unfortunately the fiber is lost. The only way to get all the nutrients and the fiber is to eat the whole grain.
When shopping for grains, look at the ingredient list on the back of the package. The first ingredient should say whole [the name of grain], whole wheat, wheatberries, oats, oatmeal, or brown rice, for examples. Be wary of labels like multigrain, organic flour, stoneground, or just wheat because they are most likely refined grains. Choose whole grains for daily meals and save the white flour for special occasions, like baking birthday cake.
Add Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables provides plenty of dietary fiber and other essential nutrients.
The average American is only eating about half of the recommended 2-4 cups of vegetables and 1.5-2.5 cups of fruit per day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fruits and vegetables not only provide essential fiber but also essential nutrients such as Vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, calcium, iron, and many more. Think of fruits and vegetables as a daily multi-vitamin.
When focusing on fiber it is important to eat the whole fruit or vegetables. Removing the pulp or skin, through juicing or peeling, reduces the fiber content significantly. For example, a whole apple with skin provides roughly 4 grams of fiber, but apple juice has less than 1 gram of fiber. The outer layer or skin often has additional fiber skin so consider eating it when possible. Eating the skin on the potato adds an additional 1 gram of fiber per potato. The same holds true for processed foods. Boxed mashed potatoes and fruit roll-ups have significantly less fiber than the whole potato or a piece of fruit. Most importantly for fiber intake, eating the whole fruit or vegetable is best.
Choose High Fiber Snacks and Sides
Foods high in fiber make you feel fuller longer and can help you to eat less.
Snack time can be a great way to add fiber to your diet. Most nuts have 2-3 grams of fiber per 1 oz. handful. Seeds, such as sesame and pumpkin have 3-4 grams of fiber per serving. Adding dried fruit to your nuts and seeds to make a trail mix will add an additional 3-4 grams of fiber to your snack. If you are worried about calories, consider air popped popcorn. Three cups of popcorn provide 4 grams of fiber and only 100 calories.
Side dishes that are high in fiber add flavor and texture to a meal. They make the meal more satisfying and prevent hunger in-between meals. Consider beans and lentils in addition to your whole grains and vegetable sides. One serving of beans or lentils provides and astonishing 10-15 grams of fiber per cup. Beans and lentils are also significant sources of protein and can be used instead of animal protein for the main dish.