Fresh Ways to Sneak More Fiber Into Your Diet
This important nutrient is plentiful in many foods, yet most people are coming up short. Luckily, making a few simple tweaks to your diet and munching on high-fiber foods will help you get the right amount.
Why Do You Even Need Fiber?
You know fiber is good for you and that you should get more of it, but do you know why? For starters, studies have shown that a diet high in fiber can boost heart health, reduce the risk of cancer, ease GI issues, and improve the appearance of your skin.
High-fiber foods also feed your beneficial gut bacteria, which helps prevent harmful inflammation in your body that can lead to disease, says Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., R.D.N., a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. “And fiber helps support your immune system.”
But here’s the thing: You have to consistently get enough of it in your diet to reap its benefits. Most people take in about 15 grams of fiber a day, but you should be getting 28 grams, says Slavin. (BTW, this formula will help you figure out how much fiber you personally need.)
So how do you do that? Start by gradually adding high-fiber foods to your plate. The key word here is gradually: If you go from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber diet too quickly, you're more likely experience bloating and stomach pain. You should also spread your fiber intake out throughout the day, since your stomach can only use so much fiber at any one time, and adding too much to a single meal can lead to digestive upset and pain. That's why Alexandra Miller, R.D.N., a corporate dietitian at Medifast, suggests aiming for at least five to seven grams per meal, and three to five grams per snack.
If you're not sure where to begin, consider these fresh ways to add high-fiber foods to your plate.
Incorporate Beans Into Your Meals
Beans are one of the simplest high-fiber foods to add to your diet; one cup has 14 to 19 grams of fiber, which is 56 to 76 percent of the daily value, says Miller. Take advantage of their fiber content by incorporating beans into a meal or two. For breakfast, mash up pinto beans and spread them on a tortilla with eggs and salsa, suggests Miller. You can also add them to salads and eat them in dishes with (or instead of) rice. (Or try one of these delicious techniques to cook beans.)
And surprisingly, you can even add beans to smoothies. "Try mixing one-fourth cup of black beans into your next green smoothie for an additional three to four grams of fiber," says Rosanne Rust, M.S., R.D.N. The beans will add a creamy, rich texture, but not much taste.
Make the Most of Citrus
Don't toss those orange, clementine, or grapefruit peels just yet. Instead, dry them, then pulverize the peels in a blender or food processor until they form a powder. Toss a scoop of the powder into smoothies, yogurt, or tea. This trick not only boosts your fiber intake, but also helps reduce food waste.
Add High-Fiber Ingredients In the Smallest of Ways
"Every bit helps, so don't dismiss simple things like adding chopped onions to your dishes, for example," says Rust. Onions, for example, contain inulin, a soluble fiber that helps stimulate the "good bacteria" in your gut. (Related: Is It Possible to Have Too Much Fiber In Your Diet?)
When you're making a salad or sandwich, check out your fridge's crisper and add in any veggie you find — even a single cherry tomato is better than having zero high-fiber foods.
Show Avocados Even More Love
One full avocado contains a whopping 18 grams of fiber, says Miller. Slip a slice of the high-fiber food into your next sandwich, cut some up and add it to smoothies, or mash some up with lemon juice and salt for a fiber-packed salad dressing. Better yet, eat it with eggs or have some guacamole with veggies— the possibilities are endless. (Hold on, can you eat too much avocado?)
Use Nuts and Seeds
In general, nuts and seeds are loaded with fiber. A half-cup of raw almonds boasts 8.8 grams, while two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 5.7 grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Related: The 10 Healthiest Nuts and Seeds)
Whichever nut or seed you choose, sprinkle the high-fiber food over soups, roasted vegetables, and yogurt for texture and fiber. Or add flaxseeds to your smoothie or make chia seed pudding, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., a Shape Brain Trust member.
Amp Up Snack Time
Sure, pretzel rods are the ideal salty snack, but they don't do much for you in terms of fiber. Instead, nosh on a bowl of popcorn, which is naturally high in fiber. For flavor, mist it with olive oil, and sprinkle on oregano, cinnamon, or nutritional yeast, says Blatner.
To balance out that saltiness, pair your popcorn with a side of berries, citrus, or pears, all of which will give you a dose of fiber and some natural sweetness too, says Blatner. (Related: 11 Natural Snacks You're Going to Want to Stock Up On)
Sip on More Water
While this isn't necessarily a tip on how to eat more high-fiber foods, if you're going to do so, you need to remember to maintain your H2O intake, too. "Fiber works best when the body is properly hydrated, because water helps fiber move through the digestive system," says Miller.
Reminder: Soluble fiber absorbs water and creates a gel-like material, which makes stool soft and bulky and decreases your chances of constipation, per the Mayo Clinic. So in order to get the nutrient's benefits, drink at least one class of water for every fiber-rich meal you have.