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Healthy Living

Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 09/07/2010
Last Updated: 04/22/2013

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The high-fiber bread I wrote about in a is all the rage with my friends who are now devotees of the tasty and satisfying stuff. One friend (go, Marcy!) swears it's the reason she's lost almost 20 pounds. (It jump-started her weight loss strategy of eating smaller portions, in that it keeps her full for much longer). Now her husband and daughter are hooked on it, too. Another friend loves how it keeps her regular. And another one told me it made her aware of the fact that she was hardly getting any fiber into her diet.

Indeed. Most Americans are not getting enough fiber.  But they're really missing out; it's practically a miracle worker. Look at all it can do:

  • It can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) by hampering the absorption of dietary fat
  • It may help control type-2 diabetes by slowing the absorption of sugar
  • It helps keep you regular by speeding waste through your gut
  • It can help in weight loss. High-fiber foods take longer to chew; your body has more time to realize it’s full, so you'll be less likely to overeat. And fiber is more filling and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. High-fiber diets are also less "energy dense," meaning they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
  • It can lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and also small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease) and in turn may help prevent other diseases of the colon. (The jury’s out on fiber and colon cancer, but it certainly can’t hurt.)
  • It may help reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which contributes to a healthier heart.

Women 50 and younger should be consuming 25 grams of fiber a day; women 51 and older should be getting 21 grams per day, according the the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.

Convinced - but not sure how to get more into your diet? Read on.

  • Scour the label. Look for "good sources" of fiber; products should contain about 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Choose WHOLE grains. When grains are refined, the outer coat (bran) of the grain is stripped, lowering its valuable fiber content. That’s why whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains. Look for "100 percent whole grain" or "100 percent whole wheat" products. Bring more of these into your diet: brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole wheat pasta and bulgur.
  • Make it breakfast. Aim for 5 or more grams of fiber a serving. A cup of oatmeal has 4; top it with some unprocessed wheat bran or bran flakes and you get even more. Or look for a cereal that includes the words "bran" or "fiber."
  • Snack on it. Raw carrots or celery, popcorn (watch your salt, though!), or hi-fiber crackers are all good fiber sources.
  • Drink it. It's easy to blend up some fiber-rich fruits and veggies, like apple, banana and carrot chunks mixed with a bit of orange juice, low-fat yogurt or soy milk.
  • Bake it. Ditch the white flour for whole-wheat flour, or use half of each. Try adding things like crushed bran cereal or flax seeds to cakes or muffins. Or top your chicken or fish with bread crumbs mixed with wheat germ or ground flax seeds.
  • Don't skin it. The peels of veggies and fruits are packed with fiber. Leave the skin on your potato. And while the skin of a kiwi may not look like it's eater-friendly, it absolutely is. (Just make sure to scrub any skin well before you eat it.)
  • Eat more beans, peas and lentils. They're fiber-rich and can be added to salads and soups.

 

This Matters> Women 50 and younger should be consuming 25 grams of fiber a day; women 51 and older should be getting 21 grams per day, according the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.

P.S. Caution: If you're planning on making the change, do it gradually. Your digestive system needs time to adjust (cramping and bloat are NO fun, after all).

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Comments

I use a lot of whole wheat flour when baking and have found "whole wheat pastry flour" which is finer and has a better taste in baking

I agree, MandMe. I actually prefer the taste of whole wheat flour in baking - and in pasta, too.

Excellent, helpful post, Sheryl. Remember when we were growing up and it was called "roughage"? When did roughage become fiber?

Yes - roughage. I guess "fiber" has a much nicer-sounding ring to it, eh?

I would be so miserable without fiber. I switched to whole grains several years ago and haven't looked back. Like you suggested, I use whole wheat flour in all of my baked goods! I also have been experimenting with different grains like Freekeh and Quinoa and I adore them.

I never heard of Freekah...I'll have to check this out. My latest love is Farro. Can't eat enough of it.

Great post! I will get my husband to read this. Men need fiber, too. I like the idea of adding fiber to drinks like smoothies.

Yes, men do need fiber, and sneaking it into a smoothie is a great way to get some extra without much effort. I put ground flaxseed into my smoothies - and peanut butter, too.

So true--you have to make a concerted effort. It starts with what you bring home from the grocery store, I think. You need plenty of fruits and veggies to much on often and all week long.

I eat a lot of veggies and beans, but still find it hard to get enough fibre in as someone has has a gluten sensitivity. Could you do a fibre post for the GF crowd?

That's an interesting question. I'm going to try to get in touch w/a doc who can speak to that. Hopefully I'll get the info for you soon!

My dad was a GI doc, so fiber was a staple in our household. We were especially big on Bran Chex. You can mix them with other cereals or (this was my fave) mix in some raisins and pretzels and eat it as trail mix.

Lucky that you learned such good habits from your dad, Susan. That trail mix idea sounds yummy - and healthy, too.

Wonderful tips! I am always very inspired by all your health tips - they seem to come to me just when I am needing them. I'll be increasing my fiber intake, starting today!

So pleased you like the tips and the timing of them. Good luck with making some positive changes!

Thank you for the specific suggestions on adding fiber to your diet. Since I have to eat gluten-free, I miss those fiber-dense breads, though I can at least get some nutritious brown rice-based options now. One question: are flax seeds a good way to increase fiber? I like adding them to oatmeal and, if they are a good fiber source, would love to explore using them more. Thanks!

Yes, I talk about flaxseeds in my post - you can add ground flax to baked goods and other things (I put them into my Greek yogurt and smoothies, too).

Let's hear it for flaxseeds! Even the nutritionally-averse husband will eat his multi-seed bread featuring the little buggers. And I'm particularly happy to know that popcorn is high fiber - how did that get past me earlier?

Now you can feel really good about eating popcorn!

Great info, Sheryl. Years ago my doctor told me to take fiber supplements (basically generic metamucil) to lower my cholesterol. Do I still need to do this if I'm also getting a lot of fiber in my diet? The health articles I read are never real clear on this.

Melanie, That's a great question. I'm going to see if I can find a way to answer it for you. I need to find a fiber guru...stay tuned.

What good timing--I'm on deadline with an article on bulgur this morning! I've become a major fan, since it's one of the few whole grains that cooks in under 20 minutes. I'm a fiber evangelist in general, ever since I lost 100lbs on Weight Watchers when their program was called "Fat and Fiber." Keep the fat grams low & the fiber grams high. Totally works.

Wow- 1oo pounds - I'm super-impressed. That's fabulous. Another vote for fiber!

Good advice. I even throw some veggies into my smoothies!

I like Martha & Me's idea about using whole wheat pastry flour. I love your suggestions--partly because I have my food diet vices (yup, chocolate!), but fiber happens to be one area where I do pretty well. When I find myself eating just to eat, I sometimes will snack on wheat berries to keep myself from diving into the cheddar potato chips (those are SO good). Have you had wheat berries? When I'm really organized I have my kids grind the wheat berries into wheat, but we also snack on them too. Surprisingly tasty.

Kristen, Yes, I love wheatberries..love them. Mix them into a lot of things. But do you mean you snack on them raw or cooked? I'm assuming cooked, right? If they can take the place of cheddar potato chips, why not??

We never skin our vegetables and often eat some of the peel of fruit (lemon peel - yum! mango peel - supposedly helps develop a resistance to poison oak). Thanks for these awesome suggestions Sheryl!

Well, you just taught me something new about mango peel. Thanks, Jennifer!

A timely reminder, Sheryl. I'm on the road and craving lots of fiber-rich foods, like whole grains, fruit, and veggies.

I'm so happy I found this site. What great health and eating tips! I'm a fiber fan, but find that it really creates a great deal of "gas" in me. I must be very careful when I eat my favorite cereal, Fiber I. I usually eat it in the evening so as not to be an embarassment to myself. Any tips on how to alleviate the "gas" problem that fiber creates?

Thanks for joining in - so glad you have found this site helpful! You pose a great question. I'm going to research that - stay tuned!

Here are some tips for avoiding gas from eating fiber:

Drink more liquid. This dilutes the sulfate,one cause of gas.
Eat more slowly.This prevents you from ingesting air, which can work its way down to the colon and cause gas.
Try an anti-gas product like Beano or Gas-X.
Any time you increase your fiber intake, do it little by little, over a period of time. Your body needs a chance to get used to it.

Hope this helps!

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