- High-Fiber Foods
- Fiber keeps you full, improves health, and aids weight loss. By using these tips to add more to your diet, you can look and feel your best.
- The health benefits of fiber
- Tips for adding fiber to your diet
- Fiber in fast food
- Fiber supplements
- What Is a High Fiber Diet?
- Soluble Fiber
- Insoluble Fiber
- Prebiotic Fiber
- What are the Best High Fiber Foods?
- What is a High Fiber Diet?
- High Fiber Diet Plan
- 1. Monday
- 2. Tuesday
- 3. Wednesday
- 4. Thursday
- 5. Friday
- More Meal Plans:
- BONUS Recommendation: Download Food Monster App For Amazing Plant-Based Recipes!
- What is fiber, again?
- What are the signs you’ve eaten too much fiber?
- What can you do if you’ve gone overboard on fiber?
- Are some diets more prone to excess fiber?
- How can you make sure you’re eating a healthy amount of fiber?
- Can You Actually Eat Too Much Fiber?
- Gastrointestinal Distress
- Abdominal Pain
- Mineral Deficiencies
- Loss of Appetite
- Should you be concerned?
- Best Way to Ingest Fiber
- What is Fiber?
- Benefits of Fiber
- What Happens When You Consume Too Much Fiber
- Fiber Balanced Plant-Based Meals
- Fiber: How Much Is Too Much?
Fiber keeps you full, improves health, and aids weight loss. By using these tips to add more to your diet, you can look and feel your best.
Many of us associate fiber with digestive health and bodily functions we’d rather not think about. However, eating foods high in dietary fiber can do so much more than keep you regular. It can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer.
Fiber, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body can’t break down. It passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body.
Fiber comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the bulky fiber that helps to prevent constipation, and is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.
Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber. There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
The health benefits of fiber
The latest figures show that nine out of ten Americans are not eating enough fiber; and people in other parts of the world are also falling well short. Part of the problem may be due to the association between fiber and bathroom habits. Yes, fiber offers a healthy and effective way to stay regular. But that’s not the only reason why we should be including more in our diets. Many different studies have highlighted how eating a diet high in fiber can boost your immune system and overall health, and improve how you look and feel. Some of the benefits include:
Digestive health. Let’s get this one out of the way first. Dietary fiber normalizes bowel movements by bulking up stools and making them easier to pass. This can help relieve and prevent both constipation and diarrhea. Eating plenty of fiber can also reduce your risk for diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestine), hemorrhoids, gallstones, kidney stones, and provide some relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some studies have also indicated that a high-fiber diet may help to lower gastric acid and reduce your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and ulcers.
Diabetes. A diet high in fiber—particularly insoluble fiber from cereals—can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, eating soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve your blood sugar levels.
Cancer. There is some research that suggests eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent colorectal cancer, although the evidence is not yet conclusive. Diets rich in high-fiber foods are also linked to a lower risk for other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
Skin health. When yeast and fungus are excreted through the skin, they can trigger outbreaks or acne. Eating fiber, especially psyllium husk (a type of plant seed), can flush toxins out of your body, improving the health and appearance of your skin.
Heart health. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is an important element of any heart-healthy diet. Eating a diet high in fiber can improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. A high fiber intake can also reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors linked to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Fiber can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and shed excess weight around the abdomen.
When we think about following a healthy diet, we often fixate on what we shouldn’t be eating, such as sugary desserts and fatty fried foods. A better strategy may be to focus on what we should be eating – especially more foods naturally rich in fiber.
Even though fiber passes through our bodies without being digested, it provides many health benefits, particularly for the heart. Fiber-rich diets may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 30%.
Source: Harvard Heart Letter, May 2019.
Fiber and weight loss
As well as aiding digestion and preventing constipation, fiber adds bulk to your diet, a key factor in both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. Adding bulk can help you feel full sooner. Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than other foods, that feeling of fullness will stay with you much longer, helping you to eat less. High-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, so by adding fiber to your diet, it’s easier to cut calories. There are other ways that a high fiber intake can aid weight loss:
- By regulating your blood sugar levels, fiber can help maintain your body’s fat-burning capacity and avoid insulin spikes that leave you feeling drained and craving unhealthy foods.
- Eating plenty of fiber can move fat through your digestive system at a faster rate so that less of it can be absorbed.
- When you fill up on high-fiber foods such as fruit, you’ll also have more energy for exercising.
By regulating your blood sugar levels, it can help maintain your body’s fat-burning capacity and avoid insulin spikes that leave you feeling drained and craving unhealthy foods. Eating plenty of fiber can also move fat through your digestive system at a faster rate so that less of it can be absorbed. And when you fill up on high-fiber foods such as fruit, you’ll also have more energy for exercising.
|How Much Fiber Do You Need?|
|Minimum recommended daily intake (in grams)|
|Source: Food and Nutrition Information Center, USDA|
Tips for adding fiber to your diet
Depending on your age and gender, nutrition experts recommend you eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day for optimal health. Research suggests that most of us aren’t eating half that amount.
While hitting your daily target may seem overwhelming at first, by filling up on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains you can get the fiber you need to start reaping the health benefits.
Fiber from whole grains
Refined or processed foods are lower in fiber content, so try to make whole grains an integral part of your diet. There are many simple ways to add whole grains to your meals.
Start your day with fiber. Look for whole grain cereals to boost your fiber intake at breakfast. Simply switching your breakfast cereal from Corn Flakes to Bran Flakes can add an extra 6 grams of fiber to your diet; switching to All-Bran or Fiber-One will boost it even more. If those cereals aren’t to your liking, try adding a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products. Experiment with wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, and bulgur. These alternatives are higher in fiber than their more mainstream counterparts—and you may find you love their tastes. Choose whole grain bread for toast and sandwiches.
Bulk up your baking. When baking at home, substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour, since whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. Try adding crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes, and cookies. Or add psyllium husk to gluten-free baked goods, such as breads, pizza dough, and pasta.
Add flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your total blood cholesterol. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and add to yogurt, applesauce, or breakfast cereals.
One advantage to eating whole grains is that you’re likely to use them to replace refined grains, such as white rice and white bread. The refining process not only strips away fiber but also removes up to 70% of many vitamins, minerals, and other healthful plant-based chemicals. Those compounds remain intact in whole-grain foods. Refined grains also tend to raise blood sugar and have other harmful metabolic effects.
Source: Harvard Heart Letter, May 2019.
Fiber from fruit and vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, another good reason to include more in your daily diet. Here are some simple strategies that can help:
Add fruit to your breakfast. Berries are high in fiber, so try adding fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries to your morning cereal or yoghurt
Keep fruit and vegetables at your fingertips. Wash and cut fruit and veggies and put them in your refrigerator for quick and healthy snacks. Choose recipes that feature these high-fiber ingredients, like veggie stir-fries or fruit salad.
Replace dessert with fruit. Eat a piece of fruit, such as a banana, apple, or pear, at the end of a meal instead of dessert. Top with cream or frozen yogurt for a delicious treat.
Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice. You’ll get more fiber and consume fewer calories. An 8oz. glass of orange juice, for example, contains almost no fiber and about 110 calories, while one medium fresh orange contains about 3g of fiber and only 60 calories.
Eat the peel. Peeling can reduce the amount of fiber in fruits and vegetables, so eat the peel of fruits such as apples and pears.
Incorporate veggies into your cooking. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
Bulk up soups and salads. Liven up a dull salad by adding nuts, seeds, kidney beans, peas, or black beans. Artichokes are also very high in fiber and can be added to salads or eaten as a snack. Beans, peas, lentils, and rice make tasty high-fiber additions to soups and stews.
Don’t leave out the legumes. Add kidney beans, peas, or lentils to soups or black beans to a green salad.
Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain crackers are all good ways to add fiber at snack time. A handful of nuts can also make a healthy, high-fiber snack.
Making the switch to a high-fiber diet
If you’re new to eating high-fiber foods, it’s best to start by gradually adding fiber to your diet and increasing your water intake. Fiber absorbs water so the more fiber you add to your diet, the more fluids you should drink.
Suddenly adding a large amount of fiber to your diet can sometimes cause side effects such as abdominal cramps, intestinal gas, bloating, or diarrhea. These should go away once your digestive system becomes used to the increase in fiber, but adding fiber gradually and drinking plenty of fluids can help avoid discomfort.
|Good Sources of Fiber|
|Food||Serving size|| Fiber
|Fiber One||1/2 cup||14|
|Bran Flakes||1 cup||7|
|Shredded Wheat||1 cup||6|
|Oatmeal (cooked)||1 cup||4|
|Spinach (cooked)||1 cup||4|
|Brussels sprouts||1/2 cup||2|
|Green beans||1/2 cup||2|
|Whole-wheat bread||1 slice||3|
|Rye bread||1 slice||2|
|Kidney beans||1/2 cup||6|
|Lima beans||1/2 cup||6|
|Baked beans (canned)**||1/2 cup||5|
|Green peas||1/2 cup||4|
|Wheat bran, dry||1/4 cup||6|
|Spaghetti, whole wheat||1 cup||4|
|Brown rice||1 cup||4|
|Pear (with skin)||1 medium||6|
|Apple (with skin)||1 medium||4|
|Strawberries (fresh)||1 cup||4|
|Nuts and seeds|
|Peanuts, dry roasted*||1/4 cup||3|
|* Choose no-salt or low-salt version of these foods,
* *Choose low-sugar version of these foods
Fiber in fast food
Fast food is often cheap and convenient, but finding a healthy meal with enough fiber can be a challenge. Many fast food meals are packed with calories, sodium, and unhealthy fat with little or no dietary fiber. Even a seemingly healthy salad from a fast food restaurant is often light on fiber—simple lettuce greens provide only about 0.5 grams of fiber per cup. Look for salads that include other vegetables, and whenever possible, up the fiber content by adding your own nuts, beans, or corn.
Other tips for getting more fiber from meals at fast food restaurants:
- Choose sandwiches, burgers, or subs that come on a whole wheat bun or whole grain bread.
- Try a veggie burger. Many taste much better than they used to and contain two or three times more fiber than a meat burger.
- Select a side of beans for a healthy fiber boost.
- Choose nuts or a salad over fries or potato chips.
- Combining a baked potato and a side of chili, available at some burger chains, can make a tasty, high-fiber meal.
- Several chains offer oatmeal bowls for breakfast, a higher fiber choice than most breakfast sandwiches. Try to choose lower sugar versions if possible.
- Finish a fast food meal with a fruit cup, fruit and yogurt parfait, apple slices, or a piece of fresh fruit.
While the best way to get fiber in your diet is from foods naturally rich in fiber—fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts—when that proves difficult, taking a fiber supplement can help make up the shortfall. Supplements can also be useful to top up your daily fiber intake while you transition to a high-fiber diet.
Fiber supplements come in a variety of forms, including powders you dissolve in water or add to food, chewable tablets, and wafers. However, there are some drawbacks to getting your fiber from supplements instead of fiber-rich foods:
- Fiber supplements won’t provide the same vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients offered by high-fiber foods.
- Supplements won’t fill you up or help you manage your weight.
- Fiber supplements can interact with some medications, including certain antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering medications, and the anticoagulation drug warfarin. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential drug interactions before taking a fiber supplement.
- If you have diabetes, fiber supplements may also reduce your blood sugar levels so, again, check with your healthcare provider before adding supplements to your diet.
If you decide to take a fiber supplement, start with small amounts and gradually build up to avoid any abdominal bloating and gas, and drink plenty of fluids.
What Is a High Fiber Diet?
Do your eating patterns reflect a high fiber diet? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 30 to 38 grams of dietary fiber each day for men, and 21 to 25 grams for women. Chances are you may be falling short—in 2015, the Academy found that Americans typically eat 17 grams per day, and stressed the importance of eating more high fiber fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Everyone can benefit from eating more fiber throughout the day, whether it’s at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, says, “High fiber foods are excellent sources of healthful, disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals. Consuming these foods often can help lower your risk of heart disease, reduce systemic inflammation, and aid in weight management.”
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in the cell walls of all plant-based foods. While the body converts other carbohydrates such as starch into simple sugars for energy, it’s not able to fully break down fiber. Fiber actually passes through most of your body’s digestive system undigested until it reaches the large intestine, or colon. Depending on its function in the digestive system, fiber can be soluble, insoluble, or prebiotic, and is found in these categories of plant-based foods:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and Seeds
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A high fiber diet packs many impressive health benefits. Eating more fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full and reducing the chance of overeating. Adding more fiber to your diet can help lower cholesterol, which may prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. High fiber foods may also reduce the risk of certain cancers and promote a healthy gut by helping waste to pass through your digestive system efficiently. Our high fiber diet guide teaches you everything you need to know about this heart-healthy way of eating, including how to identify the best sources of fiber. Our sample high fiber meal plan includes recipes for breakfasts, snacks, and more, so you can jump start a fresh routine to better health.
What is Soluble Fiber?
When soluble fiber enters our digestive system, it dissolves in water and takes on a viscous, gelatinous form. This type of fiber is typically derived from the inner flesh of plant-based foods. In the large intestine, soluble fibers such as pectin (the same “pectin” found in jams and jellies), inulin, gum, mucilage, and beta glucan mix with partially digested foods to help them pass more efficiently.
Health Benefits of Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber promotes a healthy heart by regulating cholesterol levels in the body and by lowering blood pressure. For example, pectin helps limit the amount of fat your body absorbs from certain foods, while beta glucan is strongly linked to lowering bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber can also be very beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes by helping to lower and regulate blood glucose levels. A healthier blood glucose level may also lead to a reduced need for insulin in some diabetics.
See More: Top 8 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
Foods High in Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber is often associated with the flesh or pulp of foods such as potatoes and oranges. Depending on the food, cooking can make the consistency soft and mushy—think oatmeal, baked pears, or boiled sweet potatoes.
- Whole-grain oats
- Black beans
- Sweet potatoes
What is Insoluble Fiber?
Insoluble fiber retains water once it enters the digestive system and sweeps waste through the large intestine. This type of fiber is derived from a plant’s tough, outer skin and is made up of cellulose and lignin molecules. Typically, you’ll find insoluble fiber in the skins of fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, and potatoes.
Soluble Fiber Vs. Insoluble Fiber
From apples to potatoes, every type of plant has a protective cell wall that provides shape and texture. Inside a plant’s cell wall are fiber molecules that strengthen and support growth. When the plant is eaten, these fibers enter our digestive system and become either soluble or insoluble. The main distinction between these two types of fibers is their ability to dissolve in water. While soluble fiber combines with food in the large intestine, insoluble fiber acts more like a digestive “broom.”
Health Benefits of Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber prevents constipation and complications such as hemorrhoids by bulking up the stool, helping it pass more quickly through the intestines. Insoluble fiber may also help decrease the risk for colorectal cancer by speeding up waste’s movement through the digestive tract. The shorter the amount of time waste spends in your body, the less of chance there is for harmful substances to pass through your intestinal walls into the bloodstream.
Foods High in Insoluble Fiber
Foods packed with insoluble fiber often have a tough or chewy texture—think fruit and vegetable skins, and wheat bran, the hard outer layer of cereal grains. Here are several top sources of insoluble fiber:
- Whole-wheat bread
- Wheat bran
- Brussels sprouts
- Kidney beans
What is Prebiotic Fiber?
Some soluble fibers such as pectin, beta glucan, and inulin are prebiotic, meaning they can be fermented into energy sources for the good bacteria, or probiotics, in your large intestine. Your large intestine houses more bacteria—both good and bad—than any other part of your body. Prebiotics keep bad bacteria at bay by feeding probiotics, which contributes to a healthier microbiome and better overall health.
See More: What are Probiotics?
Health Benefits of Prebiotic Fiber
Think of your relationship with your gut as symbiotic. Eat more prebiotic fiber to help the good bacteria thrive, and they will give back by providing key health benefits. Specifically, prebiotics such as inulin produce short-chain fatty acids that help the body better absorb essential minerals—calcium, iron, and magnesium. These fatty acids may also protect against inflammation, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk for colorectal cancer. Prebiotics may also help boost overall immunity.
Foods High in Prebiotic Fiber:
- Chicory root
- Dandelion root
- Globe artichoke
- Onions and leeks
What are the Best High Fiber Foods?
Below, find some of the best high fiber fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds to meet your daily requirements more easily. While there is technically no set maximum amount of fiber that you can consume at each meal or during the day, keep in mind that too much may cause bloating and stomach pain.
|Serving Size||Calories||Fiber (grams)|
|Split peas, cooked||1/2 cup||116||8.1|
|Lentils, cooked||1/2 cup||115||5.5|
|Black beans, cooked||1/2 cup||114||7.5|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1/2 cup||135||6.2|
|Artichoke hearts, cooked||1 each||60||6.5|
|Sweet potato, baked, with skin||1 medium||105||3.8|
|Pumpkin, canned||1/2 cup||42||3.6|
|Broccoli, cooked||1/2 cup||27||2.6|
|Apple, with skin||1 small||77||3.6|
|Figs, dried||1/4 cup||93||3.7|
|Quinoa, cooked||1/2 cup||111||2.6|
|Bulgur, cooked||1/2 cup||76||4.1|
|Pearled barley, cooked||1/2 cup||97||3.0|
|Oatmeal, cooked||1/2 cup||83||2.0|
|Chia seeds, dry||1 tablespoon||69||4.9|
What is a High Fiber Diet?
Because fiber is only found in plant-based foods, you should naturally find yourself eating less meat on a high fiber diet. Additionally, many of the best fiber sources are whole (or minimally-processed), nutrient-dense foods. A high fiber diet also promotes healthier eating patterns overall. High fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can take longer to chew than other foods and will help keep you full longer. Add more fiber-rich foods into your diet to help you eat slower, savor your meals, and prevent overeating.
If you’re just starting a high fiber diet, it’s important to increase your fiber intake gradually, as too much too quickly can cause an upset stomach. Drinking plenty of fluids can help keep waste moving through your digestive tract smoothly, too. It should take only a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to a higher intake of fiber, and once it does you’ll be able to experience its many benefits.
To get the most benefits from a high fiber diet, you should be consuming a variety of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds over the course of the day. Just because bananas are a good source of fiber doesn’t mean you should be eating 10 of them to meet your daily needs. Doing so will cause you to miss out on other key nutrients that come from a diverse high fiber diet. Here’s a breakdown of the high fiber diet’s top players, and why it’s important to incorporate foods from each category into your daily routine.
Image zoom Getty: Carsten Schanter / EyeEm
High Fiber Fruits
Skin-on fruits, such as apples and pears, tend to have higher amounts of insoluble fiber, while softer varieties, such as raspberries and bananas, are higher in soluble fiber. Fruit juice is not a good source of fiber, as it’s usually made without the peel or pulp. One cup of orange juice contains 0.5 grams of fiber, while 1 medium orange packs about 3 grams. Fruit is also a valuable source for antioxidants, potassium, folate, and key vitamins and minerals. Here are several (of many) high fiber fruits:
- Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
Image zoom Getty: Alexander Spatari
High Fiber Vegetables
Like fruits, vegetables are also a low-calorie fiber source and should be consumed with the skin on when possible. Comparatively, ½ cup of mashed potatoes has 1.6 grams of fiber, while a small baked potato has 3.2 grams (over twice as much!). Vegetables also contain many of the same health perks as fruits, packing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. See below for a list of high fiber vegetables:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens, kale, beet greens, Swiss chard
- Carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery root, beets
See More: 12 Ways to Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
Image zoom RosetteJordaan
High Fiber Grains
Always choose whole grains over refined to make sure you’re getting the most fiber. Incorporating more whole grain foods, which are often calorie-dense, onto your plate can help prevent overeating. Wheat bran contains about 12 grams per ½ cup serving, and is often added to cereals, breads, and baked goods to boost fiber. You can also purchase wheat bran (also called millers bran) whole and sprinkle it over yogurt and salads. Additionally, whole grains can provide selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. Examples of high fiber grains include:
- Whole grain bread or English muffin
- Sprouted grain bread
- Wheat bran cereal
- Quinoa, barley, bulgur
Image zoom Getty: vasiliki
High Fiber Supplements
Also called functional fiber, high fiber supplements can be an easy way to meet your daily needs. While high fiber supplements may provide similar digestive benefits, they could cause you to miss out on key vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that only whole foods can give. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends no more than 10 grams of supplemental fiber each day, as too much can have a laxative effect. Before you take supplements, talk to your doctor or pharmacist first to determine if they make sense for your health needs.
See More: The Skinny on Added-Fiber
Regardless, most nutritionists would agree that best sources of fiber are whole, unprocessed foods. However, if you are choosing a fiber-enriched food, read the label to assure a smart choice. Some foods such as yogurt and cereal are “fiber-fortified,” meaning an isolated amount of fiber is added during manufacturing. For example, Fiber One Bran Cereal contains over 10 grams of fiber, an amount that may cause an upset stomach. Additionally, the cereal contains artificial ingredients such as caramel color and sucralose. Lookout for these popular processed foods that are commonly fiber-fortified:
- Energy bars
- White bread
High Fiber Diet Plan
From breakfast to dinner, here’s what an ideal day on a high fiber diet could look like. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a food can be classified as “high fiber” if it contains at least 5 grams or more. We’ve provided a range of high-fiber recipes so you can follow the best plan for your individual daily needs.
Image zoom Photo: Caitlin Bensel
High Fiber Breakfast
Morning is the perfect time to get your fiber fix early so you can stay satiated until lunchtime. Preventing hunger will also help you focus at work, increasing your productivity. Pick one of the below fiber-packed meals to jumpstart your day.
- Sweet Corn Oatmeal with Peaches (6 grams)
- Whole Grain Bran Muffins (7 grams)
- Breakfast Bowl with Tomato, Avocado, and Egg (7 grams)
Image zoom Photo: Colin Price
High Fiber Lunch
Incorporating fiber into your midday meal can help stave off afternoon snack cravings. If you’re eating lunch out, stick to whole grain breads for sandwiches and opt for a fruit cup or side salad over chips.
- Tuna Quinoa Toss (6 grams)
- Feta Herb Edamame Succotash (7 grams)
- Turkey and Swiss Wrap with Carrot Salad (10 grams)
Image zoom Photo: Courtesy of Oxmoor House
High Fiber Dinner
Fill your plate with plenty of vegetables, grains, and legumes to pack more fiber into your meal. Small steps, such as leaving the skin on baked potatoes, can have big rewards.
- Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Salad (6.3 grams)
- Whole Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl (10 grams)
- Double Barley Posole (13 grams)
Image zoom Photo: Iain Bagwell
High Fiber Snacks
If you’re short on time, keep snacking simple with fiber-rich raw veggies, whole and dried fruits, whole-grain crackers, unbuttered popcorn, or unsalted nuts. For more ideas, check out our Protein-Packed Snacks roundup.
- Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bars (3 grams)
- Nutty Edamame Spread (4 grams)
- Orange Almond Butter (5 grams)
Cho, Susan, and Nelson Almeida. Dietary Fiber and Health. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2012. Google books. Web. http://books.google.com
Duyff MS, RDN, FAND, CFCS, Roberta L. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, Revised & Updated 5th Edition. New York: Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2017. Print.
During busy weeks, prioritizing eating well and getting full nutritious, satisfying and tasty meals can feel like a burden. Never fear, your weekly meal plan is here! We’re bringing you weekly ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert every day of the week, so that you can be sure you’re eating right and making your body happy and fueled. Balanced, delicious meals are a lot easier when you have a guide to follow, and that’s what your Weekly Meal Plans are here for! Are you ready to have a week full of awesome food that leaves you nourished and content? Let’s get started!
For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App – with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, plant-based and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help you get healthy!
This week, we’re bringing you a high-fiber meal plan with breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts!
Image Source: Almond Butter and Smashed Raspberry Stuffed French Toast
On Monday, energizing meals are the name of the game! You want to start your week strong with a nutritious boost, which is where all of these awesome, healthy and satisfying recipes come in. Let’s get started on a week that’s sure to be awesome with a breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert that will beat the Monday blues, complete with a treat of a breakfast to get you pumped for the week. Let’s show you how!
- Breakfast: Almond Butter and Smashed Raspberry Stuffed French Toast from Happy Food by Bettina Campolucci Bordi
- Lunch: Lentil Falafel by Amarilis Moldes
- Dinner: Apple Chickpea and Coconut Curry by Laura Nockett
- Dessert: Almond and Pear Thumbprint Cookies by Renee Press
Image Source: Roasted Sweet Potato With Spiced Chickpeas
Keep all of your Monday motivation rolling with some knockout recipes on Tuesday! With the fuel from these recipes, there is nothing that you won’t be able to accomplish this Tuesday. From a delicious breakfast salad to amazing brownies for dessert, Tuesday is all about tastiness. What could be better?
- Breakfast: Pear and Apple Breakfast Salad by Katrina Nixon
- Lunch: Roasted Sweet Potato With Spiced Chickpeas by Maryke Wylde
- Dinner: Three Bean and Green Lentil Chili byJulie Zimmer
- Dessert: Fudgy Avocado Brownies by Natasha Minocha
Image Source: Quinoa and White Bean Burger
Wednesday can seem like the longest day of the week since you’re halfway done, but get the boost you need through the middle of the week with recipes that will not only provide you with lots of nutrition, but will also be delicious enough to make you smile and bring a good mood to your Wednesday. You can also look forward to dark chocolate truffles that you’ll get to enjoy at the end of the day while looking back on all your accomplishments that you’ve had so far this week (but you might find yourself wanting to eat them all in one sitting)!
- Breakfast: Banana Cinnamon Granola Muffins by Pamela Higgins
- Lunch: Curried Red Rice, Broccoli and Chickpea Salad by Amarilis Moldes
- Dinner: Quinoa and White Bean Burger by Julie West
- Dessert: Dark Chocolate Almond Truffles by Molly Patrick
Image Source: Raspberry Almond Coconut Bars
Happy Thursday, a day when you might be feeling a bit burnt out from your awesome and busy week so far. Don’t worry, we’ve got the solution for you! These recipes are nutritious, but taste like treats, so you’ll get the feeling of comfort food with the benefits of healthy meals! Get ready for a top-notch Thursday with amazingness from chocolate hazelnut oats to unbelievable bars, and more!
- Breakfast: Chocolate Hazelnut Overnight Oats by Caroline Doucet
- Lunch: Avocado Rolls by Kathy Davis
- Dinner: Sweet Potato Millet Patties and Blackberry Salsa by Sylwia Radzaj
- Dessert: Raspberry Almond Coconut Bars by Taavi Moore
Image Source: Strawberry Beet Cinnamon Smoothie
TGIF! Friday is a day that most people love, and look forward to all week – even when we make the best of every day, there’s something special about Fridays! Treat yourself this Friday by having a delicious smoothie for breakfast, and keep the yumminess going throughout the whole day, ending with a dessert that is totally awesome and will leave you with leftovers for the weekend!
- Breakfast: Strawberry Beet Cinnamon Smoothie by Claire Ragozzino
- Lunch: Red Cabbage Carrot Dogs by Melina Kutelas
- Dinner: Wholesome Pizza With Broccoli and Artichoke by Helene Maj
- Dessert: Pear and Apple Crisp by Jessica Bose
More Meal Plans:
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- Weekly Meal Plan: Vegan Meals Ready in One Pot!
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- Weekly Meal Plan: High-Fiber Vegan Meals Part 2!
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- Weekly Meal Plan: Magnesium-Rich Vegan Meals!
- Here’s How You Can Do Oprah’s 30 Day Vegan Meal Plan Challenge
- Weekly Meal Plan: Anti-Inflammatory Vegan Meals!
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It’s been drilled into your mind by doctors, your mom, and cereal commercials: Fiber is good for you! They’re not wrong, either: Fiber helps you feel satisfied after eating, while also making sure that burger you ate actually gets digested properly.
So…the more fiber the better, right? Girl, no. There is definitely such a thing as eating too much fiber in one day, and once you overdo it, you’ll never want to let that happen again. Trust me.
What is fiber, again?
Dietary fiber (or “roughage,” as your grandma might say) is a type of carbohydrate that’s found in plant foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. After you eat it, it mostly passes straight through your digestive system, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Fiber can be broken into two camps: Soluble, which dissolves in water to make a gel-like substance, and insoluble, which doesn’t break down and passes through your digestive tract relatively intact.
“Dietary fiber is important in our diets because not only does it help regulate our bowel habits and improve our overall gut health, but it also has other systemic benefits such as improving blood sugar control, contributing to heart health by improving cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping with weight loss and management,” says Tara Menon, MD, a gastroenterologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day!
What are the signs you’ve eaten too much fiber?
If you hit your fiber sweet spot (which is around 25 grams a day for women), your digestive system should be working pretty well. But if you happen to have too much, you’re probably going to know it. Menon says the signs you’ve had too much fiber include:
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Gastroesophageal reflux
Cute! Basically, eating too much fiber means you’re going to be spending a lot more time on the toilet.
What can you do if you’ve gone overboard on fiber?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill that will absorb all that excess fiber and make it disappear out of your body. But you can treat the symptoms. If gas is your issue, taking an OTC gas-fighting pill that contains simethicone can help, Menon says. Diarrhea should pass, but if that’s gotten out of hand, you can also consider taking an anti-diarrheal medication to stop things up.
Yeah, fiber is important, but don’t forget about protein! Check out these high-protein ice creams:
Are some diets more prone to excess fiber?
Given that plant-based foods are great sources of fiber, vegans and vegetarians are probably eating more fiber than the average carnivore, Menon says. But, she adds, “the majority of Americans do not consume enough fiber.”
If you feel like your symptoms are probably caused by having too much fiber, Menon recommends stepping down your fiber intake until you feel better. “Once your symptoms have improved, see if you can pinpoint any specific food that may have triggered your symptoms,” she says. Then, slow your roll on those foods in the future.
How can you make sure you’re eating a healthy amount of fiber?
You want to aim to get 25 grams of fiber a day (try tracking your intake for a few days if you’re not sure where you stand). If you’re below that and you want to add more, Menon says it’s best to slowly add more fiber to your daily routine to work your way up to your goal.
If you’re pretty sure you’re not eating too much fiber, but are still experiencing some of the symptoms of a fiber OD, talk to your doctor to find out what’s going on.
Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.
Can You Actually Eat Too Much Fiber?
As far as macronutrients go, fiber is one of the most important. Eating enough of it can help maintain your bowel health, lower cholesterol, and control blood sugar levels.
Yet, while most people are concerned with not getting enough fiber, consuming too much can also be a problem. Overdoing it can lead to uncomfortable side effects and potential health complications.
Read on as Aaptiv explains the signs that you’re getting too much fiber.
When you ingest too much fiber, gastrointestinal distress, arguably the most noticeable sign that something in your diet has gone amiss, is bound to happen.
“ potential risk involved with eating large amounts of fiber is getting constipated, which can happen if one does not drink adequate water,” explains Samantha Hass, registered dietitian at F-Factor, a private practice in New York City.
Most of the fiber you eat combines with water when in the GI tract. This ends up forming soft, healthy bulk. When you consume too much fiber and not enough water, the imbalance can lead to hard stools that are tough to pass (and all of the issues that come with that).
Moreover, excessive fiber may end up interfering with water retention, causing a fluid imbalance. For these reasons, it’s paramount that you drink enough water and eat the right amount of fiber (more on that later).
This means upping your water intake if you end up raising your fiber intake. Messing with this balance can result in bloating, gas, constipation, and cramping.
Pain may also take place in your lower abdomen if you’ve had too much fiber and not enough fluids. If this pain persists, you may have a blockage, or fecal impaction.
Fecal impaction is when a large, hard stool forms under these conditions and gets stuck in your digestive tract. Overeating fiber isn’t the only cause of this type of blockage (a twisted bowel, inflammation, and damaged blood vessels are other causes). However, it is the most common.
The level of symptoms you’re experiencing should indicate what you can do to help improve the pain, cramping, and fullness. Mild symptoms (bloating and occasional abdominal pain) can be improved by a low fiber diet.
Moderate symptoms (abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating that doesn’t go away) can be improved by a minimal fiber diet. Severe symptoms (severe abdominal pain, heartburn, significant bloating, and nausea) can be improved by avoiding any fiber and contacting your doctor.
We also suggest placing a heating pad on your abdomen during bouts of intense pain. If adjusting your diet at home doesn’t seem to help, see your doctor as soon as you can.
A less common, but still possible effect of eating too much fiber is mineral deficiencies. Because fiber can bind to minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc, ingesting too much fiber can limit the absorption of these micronutrients.
Large amounts, especially when taken as a supplement, can cause this and, over time, lead to a mineral deficiency. This is more likely to happen during periods when the vitamins and minerals were most needed. These include lactation, pregnancy, and adolescence.
Luckily, for this to happen you’d need to ingest an incredibly unlikely amount of fiber in one or more days. “While some warn of a potential vitamin and mineral malabsorption when numbers as high as 80 grams of fiber per day are consumed, concern for this is unnecessary, as it is rather rare anyone eats anywhere near that amount,” Hass explains.
“The average American is lucky if they get above 15 grams per day.” However, if you think you could be experiencing mineral deficiencies, consider lowering your fiber intake, taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement, and contacting your doctor.
Loss of Appetite
This sign, which may seem very obvious, is often misattributed or disregarded. As expected, when you eat too much fiber you’re likely to feel very full. When done often, it’s possible you’ll develop a decrease in appetite or early satiety during meals. This is because fiber often acts as bulk or “roughage” in the stomach. The more you eat, the fuller you’ll feel.
While this is good to an extent, especially if you’re attempting to lose weight, it can become a problem when you consume too much fiber. Due to that fullness, you may become unable to consume enough energy (food) throughout your day, leaving you tired and uncomfortable or bloated. In the long run, this lack of proper food consumption could negatively affect muscle gain. If you’re feeling unusually full towards the beginning, or after, meals, check the amount of fiber in your diet. It may be having a longer-term effect than you realize.
Should you be concerned?
While, yes, it is possible to generally consume too much fiber (and reap the repercussions of doing so), you’re very unlikely to. Plus, even if you do, the impact on your body isn’t considered dangerous. This makes the definition of “too much” more of a largely held opinion rather than definitive fact. In fact, due to insufficient evidence, no recommended daily allowance (RDA) on fiber has been set.
“There is no need for concern over eating too much fiber. Because fiber is ingestible, there’s no such thing as a toxicity level,” says Hass. A substance’s toxicity level is the degree to which the substance can harm humans or animals. This means that, even when eaten in large amounts, fiber doesn’t cause acute (short-term), subchronic (lasting more than a year), or chronic (for an extended period) toxicity. In that vein, you can’t eat too much fiber—or rather, enough to be considered toxic.
This aside, it’s important to aim for the recommended amounts of fiber in order to avoid those uncomfortable side effects. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends 25-30 grams of dietary fiber per day for adult males and females. That being said, it’s okay if you find yourself eating a bit more than that (Hass mentions that her clients regularly eat around 40-55 grams per day). It’s all about striking the right balance and avoiding going overboard—especially when it comes to supplements.
Best Way to Ingest Fiber
When including fiber in your diet, the best way to do so is through food. Naturally fibrous foods, such as lentils, beans, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, berries, and apples are your best bet, but foods fortified with fiber can largely help you reach your recommended amount. Just keep track of how you’re feeling during and after meals, and adjust your intake accordingly, if needed.
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common and troublesome conditions for which individuals seek medical attention. Specific food practices may contribute to symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. Adding fiber to your diet may help improve bowel function and decrease symptom severity.
Fiber is a double-edged sword for people with intestinal disorders. While fiber alleviates constipation, certain high fiber foods, such as bran, may increase gas production and bloating. However, it seems likely that most people with IBS will benefit from at least a moderate increase in dietary fiber intake.
While fiber may appear to be a simple solution, the typical Western diet for adults often fall below the current recommendation of 20–35gm per day. Adding too much fiber too fast can result in a worse condition than being on a low fiber diet. A gradual increase in dietary fiber can modify, improve and, in some people, eliminate the abnormal bowel habits and painful symptoms associated with IBS.
People who have difficulty obtaining the goal of 20–35gm per day through diet alone may find fiber supplementation helpful. With any dietary fiber, the guideline is to start low, go slow.
As an added benefit, consuming generous amounts of fiber in your everyday diet potentially can improve overall health. Fruits and vegetables appear to exert a strong healthy effect.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber has specific benefits for maintaining GI health. High fiber foods take longer to chew, which gives the brain a chance to register fullness, preventing overeating. High fiber foods also slow digestion, which prolongs this feeling of fullness.
Research in fiber and GI health took off in the 1970s when a link was first proposed between high fiber intake and low rates of some chronic diseases. While the use of dietary fiber in the treatment of certain GI disorders may be debatable, the evidence to at least consider fiber therapy is strong.
IBS patients who are prone to constipation appear to benefit the most from fiber treatment. Other people with various forms of GI disorders may benefit from a variety of treatments involving more than a little trial and error. Because these disorders have many components, the greatest challenge will be in identifying one or several strategies that prove effective.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Dietary fiber can be classified as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber (found in vegetables, fruits, and oat cereals for example) dissolves in water, becomes a soft gel, and is readily fermented. These include pectin, guar gum, and other gums.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve or gel in water and is poorly fermented. Cellulose (found in legumes, seeds, root vegetables, and vegetables in the cabbage family), wheat bran, and corn bran are examples of insoluble fiber.
If you find that fiber seems to be a problem that causes you to feel bloating or pain, it is usually insoluble fiber that is the problem. Soluble fiber is less likely to be a problem. But the reaction is the opposite in some people, so trial and error may be the best option.
High fiber substances containing both soluble and insoluble fibers have the properties of both. They include oat bran, psyllium, and soy fiber. Methylcellulose is a semi-synthetic fiber. It is soluble and gel forming, but not fermentable.
Types of fiber differ in the speed and extent to which they are digested in the GI tract, and in the process of fermentation. There may be both good and bad aspects to fermentation, but there are certainly metabolic products produced by fermentation which contribute to colonic health. The solubility and fermentation of a particular fiber affects how it is handled in the GI tract.
Since the effect of identical fibers varies from person to person, individual response may vary. We encourage individuals try different types of fiber.
Specific Treatment Using Dietary Fiber
Despite some uncertainties about its use and effectiveness, fiber is a reasonable approach in treatment of GI disorders, particularly in IBS with constipation. Once a diagnosis of IBS is made, your physician may suggest the fibers listed below for treatment of various symptoms.
|IBS Symptoms||Fiber Treatment|
|Lower abdominal pain||Methylcellulose or Psyllium|
|Upper abdominal pain||Oatmeal, Oat bran, or Psyllium|
|Constipation||Methylcellulose or Psyllium|
|Incomplete evacuation||Methylcellulose or Psyllium|
|Diarrhea||Psyllium or Oligofructose|
|Excessive gas||Methylcellulose or Polycarbophil|
Nutrition therapy, with an emphasis on dietary fiber modification, appears to be a safe and effective initial treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, particularly in constipation prone individuals. Fiber intake can be tailored to the symptoms most evident and can be fine-tuned in partnership with a medical care provider.
Tips for Adding Fiber to Your Diet
Making small, gradual changes can add up to a big difference in the nutritional value of your diet. Experiment with fresh foods and don’t be afraid to try new foods and recipes. Here are a few practical tips for adding fiber to your diet.
- Cook in microwave to save time and nutrients
- Cook only until tender-crisp to retain taste and nutrients
- Replace the meat in salads and main dishes with presoaked dried beans and peas
- Presoaking reduces the gas-producing potential of beans if you discard the soaking water and cook using fresh water
- Use a slow cooker for bean soups and stews
- Snack on fruit anytime, anywhere
- Experiment with unusual fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, and mangos
- Leave peelings on fruit whenever possible
- Use fresh and dried fruit in muffins, pancakes, quick breads, and on top of frozen yogurt
- Choose whole-grain varieties of breads, muffins, bagels, and English muffins
- Try fresh pasta instead of dried
- Mix barely cooked vegetables with pasta for a quick pasta salad
Did This Article Help You?
IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting IFFGD with a small tax- deductible donation.
Adapted from IFFGD Publication #152 by James W. Anderson, MD, Professor of Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, University of Kentucky; Chief, Endocrine-Metabolic Section, VA Medical Center, Lexington, KY. Last modified on September 15, 2014 at 12:43:28 PM
You probably know the basics about fiber: it’s the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest, and there are two types — soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both types of fiber are good for us.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel. It is the form of fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and regulate blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber is found in black beans, lima beans, Brussels sprouts, avocado, sweet potato, broccoli, turnips, and pears.
Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive system relatively intact, adding bulk to stools. It is the form of fiber that prevents constipation and regulates bowel movements, removing waste from the body in a timely manner. Insoluble fibers are found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.
Despite these health benefits, most Americans get less than half the suggested amounts of daily fiber. The popularity of very-low-carbohydrate diets like the ketogenic or “keto” diet, the Atkins diet, and the Whole 30 diet, which may unintentionally decrease fiber consumption, hasn’t helped matters.
It may be time to give fiber another look.
New evidence confirms protective effect of fiber
A new analysis of almost 250 studies confirmed on a large scale that eating lots of fiber from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can decrease your risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. Those who ate the most fiber reduced their risk of dying from cardiac disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and/or colon cancer by 16% to 24%, compared to people who ate very little fiber. The study also concluded that more fiber is better. For every additional 8 grams of dietary fiber a person consumed, the risk for each of the diseases fell by another 5% to 27%. Risk reductions were greatest when daily intake of dietary fiber was between 25 and 29 grams.
Two observational studies showed that dietary fiber intake is also associated with a decreased risk of death from any cause. Those eating the highest amount of fiber reduced their risk of dying by 23% compared to those eating the least amount of fiber. In these studies, the associations were more evident for fiber from cereals and vegetables than from fruit.
Weight control is another benefit of high-fiber diets. By helping you feel full longer after a meal or snack, high-fiber whole grains can help you eat less. In one large study, adults who ate several servings of whole grains a day were less likely to have gained weight, or gained less weight, than those who rarely ate whole grains.
Fiber: how much is enough?
On average, American adults eat 10 to 15 grams of total fiber per day, while the USDA’s recommended daily amount for adults up to age 50 is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Women and men older than 50 should have 21 and 30 daily grams, respectively.
In general, it’s better to get your fiber from whole foods than from fiber supplements. Fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Citrucel, and Benefiber don’t provide the different types of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients that whole foods do.
When reading a food label, choose foods that contain more fiber. As a rule of thumb, choose cereals with 6 or more grams of fiber per serving, breads and crackers with 3 or more grams per serving, and pasta with 4 or more grams per serving. Another strategy is to make sure that a whole-grain food has at least 1 gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrate. If you look for a 1:5 ratio, that is even better.
Ignore the marketing on front of the package labels. Just because a bread is labeled “multigrain” or “12 grain” does not mean it is a whole grain. The grains could be refined and the bread may be low in fiber. When you look at the ingredient list, make sure “whole” is the first ingredient.
Easy ways to get more fiber in your diet
Here are some strategies to increase fiber in your diet:
- Start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal.
- Add vegetables, dried beans, and peas to soups.
- Add nuts, seeds, and fruit to plain yogurt.
- Make a vegetarian chili filled with different types of beans and vegetables.
- Add berries, nuts, and seeds to salads.
- Try snacking on vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. Serve them with a healthy dip such as hummus or a fresh salsa.
- Eat more whole, natural foods and fewer processed foods.
A few important tips as you increase your fiber:
- Do so gradually to give your gastrointestinal tract time to adapt.
- Increase your water intake as you increase fiber.
- If you have any digestive problems, such as constipation, check with your physician before dramatically increasing your fiber consumption.
Take a positive approach to eating more high-fiber foods. Beyond reducing risk of chronic disease, eating a variety of whole foods that contain good sources of fiber can be an easy and enjoyable way to keep you fuller longer and help control your weight. Fiber can expand your horizons with different tastes and textures, and can be a bonus to your health.
For those that practice a plant-based, low-carb, and healthy fat diet — especially if you’re new to the plant-based world — you are most likely, unknowingly, boosting your fiber intake. Plant-based foods are naturally fiber-rich, which is one of the many benefits of incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet.
Of course, with any nutritional endeavor, it’s all about balance.
The appropriate amount of fiber is incredibly beneficial for you. It feeds your gut microbiota, keeps your digestive system regular, and keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time aiding in healthy weight management. Yet, too much fiber in your diet, or increasing your fiber too drastically, has the potential to cause uncomfortable side effects including gas, bloating, upset stomach, constipation, and even weight gain. Therefore, in order to find the right balance for your body, it’s important to understand what fiber is, it’s plentiful health benefits, and how to tell and rectify if there’s too much fiber in your diet!
What is Fiber?
The term “fiber” is a blanket term that refers to a plant-based substance. Yet, “fiber” is broken down even further into “dietary fiber,” the substance that we consume, and even further into insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps move food waste through the digestive system and is found in “whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.” Soluble fiber refers to the dissolvable form of dietary fiber. Found in “oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus, fruits, carrots,” and barley, soluble fiber has been shown to boost a healthy heart by lowering blood cholesterol, as well as reducing glucose levels.
Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is an incredibly important part of a well-balanced diet. As mentioned, fiber not only keeps your digestive rhythms humming a natural tune, but recent studies have illuminated this substance’s potential to boost the health of your gut microbiota, maintain a healthy weight, and even avoid conditions such as diabetes.
Lower Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
Both cholesterol and blood sugar play integral roles in the development of insulin resistance and possibly diabetes. Diabetes refers to a health condition that is triggered by either diet or predisposition and is caused by malfunctioning insulin hormones, which results in high blood glucose (too much sugar in your blood). Soluble fiber acts two-fold in controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels. First, soluble fiber has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels, referred to as low-density lipoproteins (LDL), as well as lower inflammation and blood pressure. Secondly, soluble fiber slows “the absorption of sugar” and improves “blood sugar levels.”
Improves Bowel Health
While we all seek to maintain regular digestive rhythms, for those of us that suffer from digestive issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, it’s a daily struggle. Due to fiber’s incredible digestive powers — by adding bulk to your food waste and allowing it to move through your intestines quicker — it has been shown as a successful aid in reducing bowel discomfort and improving overall bowel health. A high fiber diet may help alleviate digestive discomfort, reduce the risk of hemorrhoids, and help you avoid more serious conditions such as diverticular disease of the colon.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Whether you’re trying to shed a few unwanted pounds or simply want to maintain your current weight, a fiber-rich diet is a great way to achieve your goal! Fiber aids in this endeavor in three different ways. First, foods rich in dietary fiber keep you feeling full longer, which means you are more likely to consume fewer calories. Which brings us to number two, lower caloric intake. Foods with a higher fiber content also are generally less in calories, yet offer the same amount of food. Lastly, fiber-rich foods take longer for your body to digest, which lends to longer satiation.
What Happens When You Consume Too Much Fiber
We know that fiber is important. We also know that fiber is very rich in a plant-based diet. This leads to one of the most challenging aspects of transitioning into plant-based eating: balance. The traditional American diet is lacking in high-fiber foods. Therefore, when switching to a plant-based diet, it’s inevitable that you will be consuming higher levels of fiber that your body isn’t necessarily used to.
So, what happens when you overload your body with fiber?
Interestingly enough, too much fiber can cause some of the same digestive symptoms that a diet lacking in fiber experiences. These symptoms include bloating, gas, and constipation, which, if left unattended, can lead to nausea, cramps, and more series bowel health issues. While appropriate fiber intake changes based upon a variety of aspects — such as age, weight, and gender — the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a maximum daily intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, while not exceeding 70 grams per day.
This may seem like an easy goal to meet, yet, per Medical News Today, “A healthy diet of oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich and fruit or vegetables for lunch, and a whole-grain dinner with lentils can easily reach that threshold.” Looking at this daily meal plan, it’s a perfect plant-based dieter’s day, therefore, make sure you’re looking at all of your meals with both fiber-rich and fiber-low lenses.
Fiber Balanced Plant-Based Meals
Swiss Chard and Almond Ricotta Spelt Galettes/One Green Planet
One of the easiest ways to overdue fiber on a plant-based, processed food free diet is via snacking. Snack options include easy to access, yet filling food products, such as nuts, apples, flax seed, and fruit. Therefore, focus on full meals! A balanced meal is the easiest way to avoid snacking, while also being diligent about the volume of fiber-rich food you’re eating. Here are a few fiber-balanced meals to get you started.
Apple, Parsnip, and Fennel Soup/One Green Planet
If you’re new to plant-based eating, get on the soup wagon! Not only are they an incredibly diverse meal template, but soups can be made in bulk and frozen easily. When it comes to balancing nutrition, soup recipes are the easiest to manipulate. As long as you have a tasty veggie-stock to work from, you can basically add whatever your favorite foods are! A great balanced soup to start with is this Apple, Parsnip, and Fennel Soup. While offering a dose of fiber from the apple, fennel, and parsnip, this recipe also incorporates healthy fats from the extra-virgin olive oil and hazelnuts, antioxidants from the fresh herbs, and plenty of intestine-friendly liquid from the broth and lemon juice.
Raw Mango Coconut Basil Wrap/One Green Planet
Much like plant-based soups, wraps offer many of the same benefits. They are easily transportable for work lunches or traveling. As long as you have the base wrap settled, you can change the recipe innards to meet your fiber-balanced goals. Plus, you can quickly make a bulk supply and either freeze or refrigerate! The simpler the better, such as this incredibly simple Mango Coconut Basil Wrap. With only three ingredients — mango, young coconut meat, and fresh basil — this recipe can be built upon with more fiber-rich foods or left as is for a low-fiber content meal of the day!
Chocolate Peanut Butter and Raspberry Chia Jam Cups/One Green Planet
Dessert may be one of the easiest meals to cut down on your fiber intake. Instead of focusing on fiber-rich foods for your sweet treat, try focusing on more antioxidant heavy food items such as dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is a wonderful source of antioxidants, while also providing a slew of minerals and vitamins and a lower dose of fiber. When choosing your cacao, make sure to select at least 70 percent or higher, such as this 3-Ounce 88 % Endangered Species Panther, Dark Chocolate Bar. The higher the better! Either enjoy your dark chocolate bar as is or make a delightful dessert such as these Chocolate Peanut Butter and Raspberry Chia Jam Cups that are packed full of rich cacao, protein (chia seeds), and healthy fat (coconut milk).
It’s never easy to make a big change, yet switching to a plant-based diet comes with so many wonderful benefits! To help balance out your new way of eating, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Fiber: How Much Is Too Much?
A popular TV commercial shows a woman eating broccoli and other fiber-rich foods throughout the day, depicting how difficult it seems to get the recommended daily levels of fiber. In truth, a lot of people just don’t bother. Yet to the other extreme, it’s possible to get too much fiber or eat too much at once, which can lead to unpleasant side effects.
So just how much fiber do you need? The national fiber recommendations are 30 to 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women between 18 and 50 years old, and 21 grams a day if a woman is 51 and older. Another general guideline is to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet. Achieving these goals is beneficial to your overall health, and fiber helps you feel fuller longer.
For many people, it can be a challenge to get that much fiber in a typical American diet. Most people top out at an average of 15 grams per day, regardless of how many calories they eat. But if you’re going overboard with a high-fiber diet plan, you could be putting yourself at risk for problems like stomach cramps, constipation, and even nutritional deficiency.
“High levels (of fiber) can also interfere with absorption of some minerals, such as iron, and some antioxidants, such as beta-carotene. It’s rare, though, for people in this country to be getting too much fiber,” says registered dietitian Brie Turner-McGrievy, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Getting the Right Amount of Fiber
Of course, it’s possible to feel like you’re getting too much fiber, either because of how you’re eating your fiber, or because you’ve dramatically increased your fiber intake too quickly. Here are some tips for getting more fiber without unpleasant side effects:
- Space out portions. “Spreading out your fiber intake throughout the day will allow you to avoid some of the gastrointestinal discomforts that a large amount of fiber may present,” says Dr. Turner-McGrievy. Try to include fiber-rich foods in every meal and snack, but don’t feel like you have to overdo it.
- Increase slowly. A new commitment to healthy eating could make you want to achieve those daily fiber goals quickly, but when it comes to ingesting fiber, it’s a good idea to take your time. You want to give your gut the chance to get used to the new amounts of fiber you’re eating. This will decrease some of the digestive side effects you see with a sudden increase, Turner-McGrievy says. Plan to take about two weeks to reach your goal, and pay attention to discomfort along the way. If you do experience any discomfort, it may be a sign that you shouldn’t add any more fiber just yet.
- Hydrate. Fluid and fiber go hand in hand: The more fiber you eat, the more fluid you need. “We need to make sure we drink an appropriate amount of water along with our fiber intake to allow for proper digestion,” says Turner-McGrievy. Remember that juices, soups, and other liquids count.
If your diet is largely made up of whole foods, including lots of vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains, you could easily meet or even slightly exceed the daily recommended fiber intake. But fiber intake isn’t necessarily a “more is better” situation once you’ve met the daily requirement. Taking significantly more fiber than is recommended won’t magically improve your health, and could actually make you feel worse.