You are here:

Easy ways to fit more fiber into meals and snacks

Focus on whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Image: Thinkstock

Beans are an excellent source of ber. Try several kinds in a hearty chili.

Fiber is an increasingly valued part of our daily diet. Fiber helps fight constipation, obesity, and disease, and it curbs hunger. But is it realistic to fit enough into a daily diet to make a difference? “It’s not as complicated as you think. It just takes a little planning,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Amounts and sources

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women ages 50 and older get 21 grams each day; men ages 50 and older should get 30 grams per day. McManus says some people may need a little more fiber, up to 35 grams per day. It just depends on the individual.

What’s the key to pumping up your diet with fiber? “Make sure it’s part of every meal, and go for the biggest impact,” says McManus. “An easy way to keep fiber content high is to eat whole, natural foods. Less processed foods have more fiber,” says McManus. Her suggestions include beans, vegetables (especially spinach and Brussels sprouts), nuts, seeds, and whole fruits (especially pears and apples with the skin on them).

Example of a 1,600-calorie high-fiber diet

Food

Fiber in grams

BREAKFAST

1 cup rolled oats

4

¾ cup skim milk

0

1 orange

3

LUNCH

3 cups romaine lettuce

3

3 ounces tuna

0

½ cup chickpeas

5

2 tablespoons almonds

2

1 tablespoons oil and vinegar

0

SNACK

1 small whole-wheat pita

4

½ banana

2

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1

DINNER

4 ounces grilled chicken

0

¼ cup corn and black bean salsa

1

¾ cup quinoa

4

1 cup grilled asparagus

3

1 cup blueberries

4

TOTAL

36

Source: Department of Nutrition, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Meals and snacks

McManus says it’s helpful to combine fibers at mealtime to enjoy a wider variety of foods. For example, she suggests starting at breakfast with a high-fiber cereal with berries on top. For lunch, enjoy a salad sprinkled with chickpeas or kidney beans and some nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, or pecans). Make a stir-fry for dinner using a variety of vegetables, and top with pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Don’t forget to keep foods high in fiber at snack time, too. McManus recommends whole fruit, nuts, and seeds, or a berry smoothie with wheat bran or flaxseed. Other ideas include bean dips with veggies or whole-grain crackers, dried fruit (prunes, raisins), and popcorn.

“The idea is to keep up your fiber intake every time you eat,” says McManus. “By the end of the day, your fiber goal will be achieved.” 

Four facts about fiber

1 There are two kinds of fiber

Soluble fiber (from foods such as legumes, oats, blueberries, and apples) dissolves into a gel-like substance as it moves through your gastrointestinal tract. This stimulates the bowels to hold on to water, bulking up the stool. Insoluble fiber (from foods such as whole grains and most vegetables) does not dissolve. It helps to push
material along, increases stool bulk, and reduces the risk for hemorrhoids and
diverticulosis.

2 Fiber fights disease

Fiber has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which can help fight diabetes and heart disease. One study showed that every gram increase in soluble fiber reduced LDL or “bad” cholesterol by an average of 2.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Another showed a significantly lower risk of heart disease with every additional 7 grams per day of total fiber intake.

3 Fiber curbs hunger

Fiber can make you feel full without having to eat a lot of calories. That’s because it moves slowly through your stomach and digestive tract. That can help with weight control and fight obesity. In the Nurses’ Health Study, women who consumed more fiber weighed less than women who consumed less, and women in the highest quintile of dietary fiber intake had a 49% lower risk of major weight gain.

4 Fiber does not stop colon cancer

Although doctors used to believe that high-fiber diets would help prevent colon cancer, we now know from several large studies in the last decade, including one from Harvard, that high fiber intake offers no protection against colon cancer.

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top