We all know that fiber is an important part of a well-rounded diet, but it can be overwhelming to figure out how to add fiber to your diet in a healthy way. Learn more about the digestive benefits of fiber and the top food sources of fiber below!
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. Instead of being broken down into sugar during digestion, fiber moves through the digestive system intact.
The presence of fiber helps keep your digestion moving and gives you regular bowel movements. Fiber also slows down digestion, which helps you feel full for longer and minimizes blood sugar spikes after eating (1).
A high-fiber diet is well known for improving digestive health, but it has many other health benefits as well. Increasing your fiber intake can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure while reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (1).
Unprocessed plant foods are the best way to increase your fiber intake. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (1).
Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. A high-fiber diet should include a variety of foods that provide both sources of fiber because they have different health benefits.
Soluble fiber absorbs water in the digestive tract, giving it a gel-like texture. It can help improve digestive concerns like diarrhea by adding bulk to the stool (1, 2).
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A diet rich in soluble fiber is also beneficial for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Examples of soluble fiber include apples, bananas, potatoes, and oatmeal (1).
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water and instead helps your digestion move along, reducing constipation. Brown rice, beans, kale, and nuts are good sources of insoluble fiber (1).
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 22-28 grams of fiber per day for women and 28-34 grams per day for men. It is estimated that over 90% of Americans don’t meet the daily fiber recommendation (3).
The best way to add fiber to your diet is to think about ways to incorporate plant foods into the meals you already eat. Do you enjoy stir-fries? Try choosing brown rice instead of white rice and including broccoli for a fiber boost.
Snacks are also a great way to add more fiber to your diet. High-fiber snack foods include popcorn, fruit, and trail mix.
As you add fiber into your diet, you might notice some mild gas and bloating, which should improve as your body gets used to having more fiber. Slowly increase your fiber intake while drinking plenty of water to reduce digestive upset.
In some cases, increasing fiber may not be beneficial. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before increasing fiber if you have a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or diverticulitis.
Top 15 High-Fiber Foods
What are the highest-fiber foods? These 15 foods top the charts in fiber content and are a great place to start if you want to increase your fiber intake.