If the phrase “fiber in your diet” calls to mind images of your mom popping Metamucil tablets, we don’t blame you—fiber is basically the Golden Girls of the nutrient world. However, it’s also an essential for weight loss.
Fiber is about as close to a magic weight loss ingredient as you can get, says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting enough of it, she says.
The average woman should be getting 25 to 30 grams a fiber per day, says Gans. That’s the amount in seven apples, or 12 cups of broccoli, or seven and a half cups of oatmeal. We’re going to take a wild guess that you’re not eating that many apples.
- RELATED: 15 Healthy High-Fiber Foods That Make You Feel Full and Satisfied
- RELATED: What a Nutritionist Eats to De-Bloat All Day Long
- RELATED: 8 Carby Snacks That Can Actually Help You Lose Weight
- New evidence confirms protective effect of fiber
- Fiber: how much is enough?
- Easy ways to get more fiber in your diet
- One Thing You’re Not Eating Enough of That Can Help You Lose Weight
- What Is Fiber and What Does It Do?
- How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
- 14 High Fiber Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight
- How to Eat More Fiber with Fewer Unpleasant Side Effects
- The 10-Second Takeaway
- Need to Lose Weight? Just Add Fiber
- Why is Fiber Good For Weight Loss?
- How Much Fiber Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
- What Are the Best Sources of Fiber?
- High Fiber Diet For Weight Loss: Dial In Your Fiber Intake
- Health Benefits of Fiber
- Exactly How Much Fiber You Should Be Eating Every Day, According to Science
RELATED: 15 Healthy High-Fiber Foods That Make You Feel Full and Satisfied
Getting an adequate amount of that nutrient through whole foods (not fiber supplements) keeps you fuller longer because fiber digests much slower than simple carbs. And the more full and satisfied you feel after eating healthy, fiber-filled foods, the less tempting those cookies in the break room will be after lunch, says Gans.
On top of that, this essential part of your diet keeps your digestive system on fleek, so you won’t be bloated or constipated. (Insert poop emoji here.)
RELATED: What a Nutritionist Eats to De-Bloat All Day Long
Another bonus that comes with packing fiber into your diet is that healthy weight-loss friendly foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, are already full of the stuff, says Gans. So by aiming to meet your fiber quota, rather than counting calories, you’ll end up making better food choices overall, she says.
Since pounding half a dozen apples at the end of your day to meet your fiber goal isn’t appetizing, the best strategy is to spread your servings out across all your meals and snacks for the day, says Gans.
RELATED: 8 Carby Snacks That Can Actually Help You Lose Weight
“All of your meals should include at least eight grams of fiber,” she says. To hit the 30 grams per day goal, snack on a medium pear or a half an avocado, which have about six grams of fiber each, says Gans.
To ramp up your fiber intake at each meal, start including oatmeal, which has four grams per cup, quinoa (five grams per cup), and barley (eight grams per 1/4 cup) into your menu. To up the ante even further, get friendly with fiber-filled mix-ins like chia seeds (10 grams per ounce), and chickpeas (about nine grams per 1/4 cup).
Above all, remember that fiber is your friend.
Macaela Mackenzie Macaela Mackenzie is a freelance journalist specializing in health, culture, and tech, and she regularly contributes to outlets like Prevention, Women’s Health, Shape, Allure, Men’s Health, the John Hopkins Health Review, and more.
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.
One Thing You’re Not Eating Enough of That Can Help You Lose Weight
There’s certainly more than one way to approach weight loss — you can count calories, carbs, points, or meticulously weigh your food.
The truth of the matter is any of these may or may not work for you for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with sustainability.
No matter which way you prefer to cut calories, there is one thing the vast majority of us aren’t eating enough of that can actually help with weight loss: fiber. High fiber foods are an important component in weight loss.
What Is Fiber and What Does It Do?
Fiber, a form of carbohydrate found in plants that humans lack the enzyme to digest, helps us feel fuller on fewer calories.
Fiber feeds the helpful bacteria living in our guts, helps keep things moving through the GI tract, can help support cardiovascular health, and can even help support healthy blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar after a meal.
We know fiber isn’t sexy. But if you’re looking for a simpler way to slim down and improve your health, eating more fiber may help you get there. There’s solid scientific research to prove it:
A study published in the Annals of Medicine compared the effectiveness of two diets: One group was asked to eat a simple, high fiber foods diet with a goal of 30 grams of fiber per day.
The other group was assigned a more complicated diet, which asked participants to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean protein, and cut back on salt, sugar, fat, and alcohol.
Despite the two very different diets, each group of dieters lost comparable amounts of weight (those on the more complicated diet lost four more pounds, on average), ate about the same amount (19 grams) of fiber each day (the high-fiber group didn’t quite make their daily fiber quota) and kept the weight off for 12 months.
This may suggest that when making dietary tweaks to lose weight, more change isn’t always better, but more importantly, fiber consumption is the common thread for both groups.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women ages 19–50 get from 25–28 grams of fiber daily; men ages 19–50 should aim for 30–34 grams each day. Try to get the bulk of your fiber intake from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. If you want to make extra sure you hit your fiber goal, a supplement can help keep you regular while supporting your digestive health.
14 High Fiber Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight
3/4 cup, 81 calories, 14.3 grams fiber
Bran cereal can pack quite the fiber punch in less than one cup, so you might want to bust out the scale or measuring cup to portion out your breakfast.
Sprinkle over 2-percent Greek yogurt or plain yogurt, and top with fresh berries for a nutrient-dense way to start your day.
Keep in mind that cereal is a processed food, so search for varieties with short, clean-ingredient lists — sprouted grains are a great bonus (Ezekiel makes sprouted versions).
1 ounce, 138 calories, 9.8 grams fiber
This superfood has garnered a lot of attention for the past few years — and for good reason. Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids (including ones that we can’t produce on our own) that are necessary for building muscle, plus a load of calcium, potassium, and phosphorous.
They’re easy to add to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and many other foods. You can even make them into chia pudding.
1/2 cup, 127 calories, 9.2–9.6 grams fiber
Yes, beans are considered a carb — but you get a big fiber bang for your calorie buck here, plus some protein. Add these beans to turkey chili, chicken and white bean chili, or vegan double bean chili.
French beans (green beans), cooked
1/2 cup, 114 calories, 8.3 grams fiber
Smaller and thinner than regular green beans, French green beans, or haricot vert, are a bit more delicate in flavor and have smaller pods than their larger brethren.
Serve them steamed and seasoned with lemon zest, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sea salt, or stir-fry them with ginger, garlic, and honey for a sweet-and-salty version of Chinese green beans.
1 cup, 64 calories, 8 grams fiber
They’re sweet, juicy, and a tasty way to help you to meet your fiber goal. All the little seeds in raspberries might be annoying when they get stuck in your teeth, but that’s where the bulk of the fiber comes from in this fruit.
Although delicious raw, you can blend them for a beautiful raspberry smoothie bowl, mash them in this raspberry chia seed pudding, or marry them with bananas in this raspberry banana ice cream.
1/2 cup, 115 calories, 8 grams fiber
Not only do lentils have plenty of fiber, but they’re also relatively simple to cook: They can easily be thrown into soups or salads. The nine grams of protein found in half a cup is an added bonus.
Tasty, punchy flavor combinations for lentil salads: lentil lime salad, rainbow lentil bowls, lentil and feta salad, and roasted pumpkin salad with lentils and goat cheese.
1/2 cup, 176 calories, 8 grams fiber
These beige beans got their claim to fame from the snack world. Craving a creamy dip? Nosh on crudite dunked in homemade hummus (avocado hummus and black bean hummus are awesome as well when you want a slight break from tradition).
Or pop crispy baked chickpeas in your mouth when you crave something crunchy and a bit salty, but don’t want to give in to fried potato chips or overly salty pretzels.
1 cup, 127 calories, 8 grams fiber
Full of potassium, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin K, blackberries are a relatively low-sugar fruit (only 7 grams per one-cup serving) to add to smoothies, dot on top of healthy desserts, mash into plain yogurt, or snack on by the handful.
If you want a savory way to serve them, try blackberry spinach salad, and if you want a recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth, try this mixed berry crumble.
1/2 cup, 114 calories, 8 grams fiber
One of the lower-calorie beans, black beans are as versatile as they are stunning. Add them to this high-protein chicken and black bean burrito bowl, dump them into this southwestern rice and bean salad, or make black bean chili.
1 cup, 142 calories, 8 grams fiber
If you haven’t used bulgur in recipes before, try it; it just might become your new favorite ingredient. It’s a bit like couscous, and cooks just as quickly. A full cup — which will easily fill you up — contains less than 200 calories.
Add roasted, grilled, or raw veggies, and toasted nuts or seeds, plus a teaspoon of olive oil, and the juice of a lemon or lime, and you have one tasty brown-bag lunch to tote to work.
This nutritious whole grain can be eaten like oatmeal, added to salads, or enjoyed as a side dish like this bulgur fruit stuffing.
1/2 cup, 45 calories, 7 grams fiber
A medium artichoke makes a great side dish, and any side with seven grams of fiber is a winner in our book. Swap out the melted butter they’re often served with for balsamic vinegar or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon juice and garlic.
Use frozen or canned artichokes for year-round inclusion in tasty, sunny dishes like this chicken breast with feta and artichoke, artichoke pizza, or chicken piccata.
2 Tbsp, 110 calories, 5.6 g fiber
Ground flax seeds are a simple way to sneak more fiber into almost any dish, and they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Adding two tablespoons to a smoothie, granola, or a flour mixture for baking provides almost six extra grams of fiber to the dish.
Ground flax seed adds a complex, nutty flavor to foods, and makes a crispy breading for chicken.
1 medium, 101 calories, 5.5 grams fiber
The next time you decide to sink your teeth into a juicy pear, leave the skin on! Most of the fiber in fruits is found in their skin, so you can miss out on the good stuff by peeling them.
Pair sliced pears with robust cheese and tart pomegranate seeds in a blue cheese, pear, and spinach salad; start you day with a fiber-full bowl of oatmeal with pears and cinnamon; or mull over dessert with red wine poached pears with mascarpone.
1/2 cup, 120 calories, 5 grams fiber
This magical fruit certainly shines on its own — generations of Aztecs and Mexicans got it right with guacamole — but it can also be used as a substitute for other fat in recipes that call for mayonnaise, such as this avocado egg salad toast, or combined with coconut oil in place of butter in these fudgy avocado brownies.
Fresh, in-season avocados aren’t cheap in most parts of the country, though, so make sure you cut your avocado this way, ripen it quickly when in a pinch this way, and store any leftovers in the most optimal way (Hint: It’s not wrapping it with plastic wrap!)
How to Eat More Fiber with Fewer Unpleasant Side Effects
Now before you clean out the grocery’s bean aisle, know that adding too much fiber to your diet too fast can make things a bit uncomfortable — for you and for those around you.
To ease into a diet higher in fiber, first figure out how much fiber your gut is used to getting each day by tracking your fiber intake over the course of a few “typical” days.
After that, gradually add an additional three to five grams every two to three days or so, until you hit the recommended daily amounts.
Here’s what three to five grams of fiber looks like in food form:
- 1 small apple with skin: 3 grams
- 1 cup halved strawberries: 3 grams
- 1 medium (7″) banana: 3 grams
- ½ cup whole-wheat pasta: 3 grams
- 1 whole wheat English muffin: 3 grams
- ¾ cup bran flakes: 5 grams
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal: 4 grams
- 1 slice hearty, whole-grain bread: 3 grams
- ¼ cup cooked lentils: 4 grams
- ¼ cup cooked black beans: 3.75 grams
- 1 ounce almonds: 3.5 grams
- ½ cup cooked peas: 4 grams
- 1 small potato with skin: 4 grams
- 1 cup whole, roasted Brussels sprouts: 4 grams
- 1 cup broccoli florets: 5 grams
- 2 tablespoons crunchy chickpeas: 4 grams
If you’re hoping that eating more fiber will help you lose weight, you’ll want to eat these foods instead of foods with little-to-no fiber, not in addition to them. Because in the end, weight loss generally boils down to eating fewer calories.
While your gut adjusts to an increase in fiber, here are some additional ways to minimize undesirable turbulence:
- Soak dried beans and cook them extra well; this helps break down some of the gas-causing sugars known as oligosaccharides.
- Avoid other gas-inducing foods, such as carbonated beverages and sugar alcohols that are often found in sugar-free candies and meal replacement protein bars.
- Drink more water. This is crucial for keeping that soluble fiber moving through your gut, which will also help move that gas along and minimize bloating. Believe me, the last thing you want is to be gassy and constipated.
The 10-Second Takeaway
Once you’ve adjusted your diet and are, ahem, comfortable with getting the recommended daily amount of fiber, chew on the high-fiber foods listed above.
They can help you feel satisfied in smaller amounts (read: fewer calories) so you can enjoy the weight loss and health benefits that come with eating more fiber.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Need to Lose Weight? Just Add Fiber
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Simply following a high-fiber diet is as effective for weight loss as adhering to a detailed heart-healthy plan that also limits calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, according to a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dieters following the comprehensive heart-healthy approach lost an average of about 6 pounds in six months, while those who focused solely on increasing their fiber intake lost about 5 pounds. The difference in weight loss between the groups was not significant, and both groups were able to maintain their loss at the one-year mark. Both groups also achieved a similar, modest reduction in blood pressure.
The study involved 240 obese men and women between the ages of 21 and 70 years. Half of the individuals were randomly assigned to a very specific heart-healthy diet based on the American Heart Association guidelines and given a personalized daily calorie goal. In addition to limiting sugar, saturated fat, and other nutrients, these participants were encouraged to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, choose lean animal proteins and plant proteins, and enjoy fish at least twice weekly. The second group was given just one simple goal: to eat at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Both groups received extensive nutrition counseling from registered dietitians, including two one-on-one sessions and 12 group sessions.
At the start of the study, participants in both groups were eating on average 19 grams of fiber per day, falling short of the recommended intake of 21 to 25 grams daily for women and 30 to 38 grams for men. After one year on the diet, the high-fiber group were eating about 5 extra grams of fiber per day. The heart-healthy group increased their fiber intake by about 3 grams three months into the study, but then drifted back to their baseline level.
The weight loss in both groups was modest, even compared to other studies that assess the effects of diet changes alone on body weight. Since both groups achieved similar results, it’s possible that the counseling sessions had a greater impact on participants’ success than the assigned diet plan.
Still, it’s encouraging to see that one simple, positive message — eat more fiber — may help people halt gradual weight gain and even reverse the trend. On the other hand, previous studies have found that simply eating more fruits and vegetables does not have a meaningful impact on body weight.
Unfortunately, neither diet helped people lower their cholesterol or fasting glucose levels. This may have to do with the types of foods the participants were eating to bump up their fiber intake. The high-fiber group didn’t increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, and only about 1.5 grams of their additional 5-gram intake came from cereal grains. It’s possible that participants were eating more fiber-fortified foods like breakfast cereals, cookies, crackers, and bars in an attempt to reach their daily goal. Most of the research demonstrating the health benefits of fiber has studied exclusively intact fiber from whole food sources like whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, and it isn’t clear that isolated fibers like inulin and polydextrose added to packaged foods offer the same advantages.
If you’d like to increase your fiber intake, either in an effort to manage your weight or improve overall health, I strongly recommend targeting at least 25 grams from whole food sources. Here are some of the best sources of fiber to help you hit your target and maximize the wellness payoff.
- Beans and lentils: These plant-based proteins are also fiber powerhouses, supplying 6 to 10 grams per 1/2 cup serving. Enjoying one cup several days per week is one of the smartest ways to increase your daily fiber intake. Eating beans regularly has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, so including them at more meals can dramatically boost your health profile.
- Whole grains: Most intact, whole-kernel grains supply 1.5 to 5 grams fiber per 1/2 cup serving of cooked grains. The best of the best (in terms of fiber tallies) include bulgur, farro (and other wheat berries), quinoa, and amaranth, but other favorites like oats are still great choices.
- Seeds and nuts: Chia seeds are especially rich at 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, but ground flax, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and hemp can add to your daily total, too. In the nut category, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and hazelnuts supply the most fiber.
- Vegetables: To boost your fiber intake, add more leafy greens, broccoli, sweet or white potatoes with skin, Brussels sprouts, winter squash (like butternut), and parsnips.
- Fruits: Get your sweet fix from fiber-rich berries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, and mango.
While eating more fiber is a terrific goal to strive for, I still think it’s important to look at the whole picture and focus on other aspects of a healthy diet, like eating more plant-based meals, limiting sugar and refined grains, and emphasizing healthy unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fish. Fortunately, eating more high-fiber foods can help you make progress in all of these areas.
If you’re not currently eating a lot of fiber, increase your intake gradually over the course of several weeks to help keep gas and discomfort to a minimum. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, chew slowly and thoroughly, and be patient with your body. It takes time for your gastrointestinal system and gut flora to adjust, but the changes are all for the better.
While getting in your veggies is a great way to keep calories low if you’re trying to lose weight, they’re also jam-packed with fiber. But you don’t have to just eat veggies all day long in order to lose weight. We asked a dietitian, and here’s what she said about how much fiber you need a day to lose weight.
Why is Fiber Good For Weight Loss?
Registered dietitian nutritionist and NASM-certified personal trainer Whitney English Tabaie, MS, said fiber slows digestion and helps you feel fuller longer, which may result in less overeating or snacking between meals, which can lead to weight loss. Fiber also slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which helps to maintain energy levels and prevent spikes and crashes.
How Much Fiber Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
The recommended daily amount (RDA) of fiber is 25 grams a day for women and 37 grams for men, Whitney said, but the average American probably only consumes about 15 grams of fiber per day. “I recommend people aim to consume at least the RDA, but really, when the fiber is coming from whole foods versus supplements, the more, the better. Some hunter-gatherer societies consume an upwards of 100 grams a day!” She added to just make sure to consume plenty of water to aid in fiber digestion.
Don’t just start eating a ton of fiber if you haven’t been! Whitney warns that a drastic increase in fiber, especially coupled with low water intake, could cause digestive distress and constipation. “My recommendation is to increase fiber intake slowly, drink plenty of water, and aim to get your fiber from whole foods versus supplements,” Whitney said.
What Are the Best Sources of Fiber?
Great sources of fiber include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit. Here are some ways you can increase your fiber intake:
- Spread toast with nut butter or avocado instead of butter.
- Add beans to smoothies, puree into soups, and add to mashed potatoes.
- Sprinkle hemp seeds on your salad.
- Use a flax egg instead of a regular egg when baking.
- Dip carrots or pepper strips in guacamole instead of chips.
- Add chia seeds to your overnight oats.
- Bake with whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.
- Explore different pasta alternatives such as chickpea pasta.
Image Source: Getty / Claudia Totir
Fiber is an essential nutrient. However, many Americans fall far short of the recommended daily amount in their diets. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should target 38 grams, or 14 grams for every 1,000 calories.
Dietary fiber contributes to health and wellness in a number of ways. First, it aids in providing fullness after meals, which helps promote a healthy weight. Second, adequate fiber intake can help to lower cholesterol. Third, it helps prevent constipation and diverticulosis. And fourth, adequate fiber from food helps keep glucose within a healthy range.
Natural Sources of Fiber
Fiber is found in plant foods. Eating the skin or peel of fruits and vegetables provides a greater dose of fiber, which is found naturally in these sources. Fiber also is found in beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Typically, the more refined or processed a food is, the lower its fiber content. For example, one medium apple with the peel contains 4.4 grams of fiber, while ½ cup of applesauce contains 1.4 grams, and 4 ounces of apple juice contains no fiber.
With a few simple and tasty substitutions, you can increase your fiber from foods in no time. For breakfast, choose steel cut oats with nuts and berries instead of a low-fiber, refined cereal. At lunch, have a sandwich or wrap on a whole-grain tortilla or whole-grain bread and add veggies, such as lettuce and tomato, or serve with veggie soup. For a snack, have fresh veggies or whole-grain crackers with hummus. With dinner, try brown rice or whole-grain noodles instead of white rice or pasta made with white flour.
Here are a few foods that are naturally high in fiber:
When increasing fiber, be sure to do it gradually and with plenty of fluids. As dietary fiber travels through the digestive tract, is similar to a new sponge; it needs water to plump up and pass smoothly. If you consume more than your usual intake of fiber but not enough fluid, you may experience nausea or constipation.
Before you reach for the fiber supplements, consider this: fiber is found naturally in nutritious foods. Studies have found the same benefits, such as a feeling of fullness, may not result from fiber supplements or from fiber-enriched foods. If you’re missing out on your daily amount of fiber, you may be trailing in other essential nutrients as well. Your fiber intake is a good gauge for overall diet quality. Try to reach your fiber goal with unrefined foods so you get all the other benefits they provide as well.
High Fiber Diet For Weight Loss: Dial In Your Fiber Intake
Those who use a flexible approach to dieting such as IIFYM track protein, carbohydrates and fat daily. With IIYFM, no food is off limits so long as daily macro numbers are being hit consistently. However, it is typically recommended that a variety of foods be consumed each day to ensure adequate vitamin, mineral and fiber intakes.
Most individuals have a pretty good grasp on what IIFYM, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals are, but may not know as much about fiber. The purpose of this article is to discuss what dietary fiber is, why we need it, where we can get it from and how to incorporate it into an IIFYM dietary approach.
To start this process and obtain your macro numbers, start with our macro calculator.
What is Fiber?
The Institute of Medicine defines dietary fiber as the “nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants.” They further define functional fiber as “isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans.” Total fiber is defined as a combination of dietary and functional fibers. However, it should be noted that there is much debate over the exact definition of a fiber.
For the purposes of this discussion, you can think of fiber as food matter that passes through the stomach and small intestine without digestion by our digestive enzymes. This food matter enters the large intestine where it comes into contact with bacteria that colonize both the walls and lumen of the large intestine.
Make tracking fiber easier with dialed in macro calculations for your Macro Blueprint.
These bacteria contain enzymes that are able to ferment some of the food matter that our human enzymes are unable to digest, producing a number of compounds including short-chain fatty acids (acetate, propionate, and butyrate). Short-chain fatty acids can be absorbed and used for a number of purposes in the human body
Acetate: Absorbed in the large intestine, passes through the liver and can be used as an energy source throughout the body.
Propionate: Absorbed in the large intestine and is used as a fuel source in the liver. It may also contribute to a reduction in cholesterol through inhibition of HMG-CoA Reductase, the rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis.
Butyrate: Absorbed by the cells lining the colon and is used as a preferred energy source. It may also reduce colon cancer risk by promoting normal cell growth.
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.
Types of Fiber
Fiber sources are typically classified based on their solubility in water.
Soluble Fiber: These include compounds such as gums, beta-glucans, pectins, and some hemicelluloses. Due to their solubility in water, they form viscous solutions and are also highly fermentable by bacteria in the lower GI tract.
It’s recommended that individuals consume a level of fiber daily that meets or exceeds the 14g of fiber per 1000 Calorie minimum set by the Institute of Medicine.
Insoluble Fiber: These include compounds such as cellulose, lignin, and some hemicelluloses. They are insoluble in water, nonviscous and poorly fermentable, primarily contributing to stool bulk.
Health Benefits of Fiber
Although a human can live without consuming fiber, there are a number of potential health benefits to consuming a diet high in fiber:
Increased Satiety: High fiber diets have been found to increase satiety. This is thought to be due to the viscosity of soluble fiber. By forming a viscous gel in the stomach, gastric emptying is slowed and ultimately results in an increased feeling of fullness. This may also contribute to reduced caloric intake and help prevent weight gain.
Reduced Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Diets high in fiber have been found to be associated with reduced blood cholesterol levels. The reduction in cholesterol is thought to be due to multiple mechanisms. First, the viscosity of soluble fiber can prevent cholesterol absorption in the intestine. In addition, the short-chain fatty acid propionate has been showed to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver.
Improved Blood Glucose Control: A meal high in fiber can slow the rise in blood glucose as the meal is digested and absorbed. This is thought to be due to the effect of fiber on reducing gastric emptying and also slowing nutrient absorption in the small intestine.
Reduced Colon Cancer Risk: Both soluble and insoluble fiber may play a role in a reduction of colon cancer risk. Soluble fiber can be fermented into short chain fatty acids, including butyrate, which may help to promote normal growth and development of cells lining the large intestine.
In addition, fermentation of soluble fiber decreases the pH in the large intestine which helps to promote the growth of “beneficial” bacteria which can out-compete other bacteria and result in a healthier gut microbiome. On the other hand, insoluble fiber can increase stool bulk and dilute substances that may be potentially detrimental to cells lining the intestine.
Increased Regularity: Diets high in fiber, especially insoluble fiber, can increase stool bulk and improve regularity.
High Fiber Foods
A number of foods are high in fiber . Below are examples of a number of high fiber foods (all values listed for 100g raw food):
In addition to the aforementioned foods, many other foods are fortified with fiber. Examples of fiber-fortified foods include high fiber tortillas, some protein and/or granola bars (e.g. Quest Bar) and some cereals (e.g. Fiber One).
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
The Institute of Medicine (the group that establishes the DRI’s) recommended an adequate intake of fiber, which is 14g fiber per 1000 Calories consumed. Based upon average daily caloric intake, this works out to be a minimum intake of around 25g daily for women and 38g daily for men. However, it is important for each individual to base their daily fiber minimum upon their own daily caloric requirements.
Average fiber intake in the United States is around 15g daily. Clearly, the average American is well below the recommended daily fiber intake.
To avoid confusion, it’s ideal to count fiber along with other carbohydrates consumed and aim for a consistently high fiber intake daily.
Although no upper limit for fiber consumption has been set, it should be noted that extremely high fiber intakes are likely not optimal for health. Most individuals will experience GI distress as daily fiber intake exceeds their level of tolerance. This may also result in suboptimal nutrient digestion and absorption.
Therefore, it is recommended that individuals consume a level of fiber daily that meets or exceeds the 14g fiber per 1000 Calorie minimum set by the Institute of Medicine, but at the same time is below the amount that results in adverse GI symptoms.
This is why when we created the IIFYM Macro Calculator, we set fiber at a range that is proven to aid in digestion and gut health without interfering with macronutrient absorption.
Individuals with extremely high caloric requirements (e.g. 4000+ Calories daily) may not be able to tolerate the 14g/1000kcal minimum without GI symptoms. These individuals instead should aim for a high fiber diet that is below the threshold at which symptoms appear.
How to Incorporate Fiber into IIFYM
Now that we have discussed some of the basics of fiber, it is important to also discuss how to fit fiber into an IIFYM approach in order to make progress towards your goals and also receive the number of health benefits of a high fiber diet.
Some individuals who follow IIFYM don’t count fiber towards their daily calorie or macro totals because fiber cannot be digested by human enzymes. However, these individuals may not be aware that many types of fiber are fermentable by bacteria in the digestive tract. Which helps produce a number of products such as short-chain fatty acids which can be absorbed by the human body and used for energy (as previously discussed).
Find out your starting macros to assist you with your fiber intake, let one of our skilled coaches build your Macro Blueprint.
Although some of the fiber consumed in the diet can be fermented (primarily soluble fiber), not all fiber consumed is fermented. As a result, the best estimate for the caloric composition of fiber is 1.5 – 2.5 Calories per gram depending upon the composition of the fiber source.
This is less than carbohydrates which contain 4 Calories per gram. However, to avoid confusion it’s best to count fiber along with other carbohydrates consumed and aim for a consistently high fiber intake daily.
Minimum Daily Fiber Requirements
To ensure an individual is progressing towards their goals with IIFYM and also consuming adequate fiber daily it is recommended that they include a daily fiber minimum. The macronutrient plans provided through IIFYM.com include a daily fiber minimum to ensure that fiber intake is adequate as macronutrient needs are met.
An individual should exceed their daily fiber minimum while also hitting their macros by consuming a variety of food from all food groups. Having a fiber minimum will ensure adequate consumption and ensure an individual eats fruits, vegetables, and whole grains daily in order to hit their fiber minimum (however, those experienced with IIFYM are likely doing this since they eat a variety of foods to hit their numbers daily).
Take Home Points:
– Fiber primarily refers to carbohydrates consumed in the diet that cannot be digested by human enzymes. However, many types of fiber can be fermented by bacteria in the colon. Therefore, fiber does have a caloric value and should be counted towards an individual’s daily totals. The easiest way to do this is count fiber towards your carbohydrate total for the day.
– There are a number of health benefits of a high fiber diet including; increased satiety, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, improved blood glucose control, reduced colon cancer risk and improved regularity.
– Healthy individuals should aim for a fiber intake of at least 14g per 1000 Calories consumed daily. However, excessive fiber should be avoided if it causes individual GI distress.
– To ensure adequate fiber intake while following an IIFYM approach individuals are encouraged to aim for a fiber minimum each day, while also hitting their macro numbers through consumption of a variety of foods.
Exactly How Much Fiber You Should Be Eating Every Day, According to Science
Diet trends come and go, but fiber is forever. Unlike paleo and raw food meal plans, high-fiber diets don’t stir up much debate among health experts, and new research published in The Lancet confirms why.
According to the review, which was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) and assessed findings from nearly 250 prospective studies and clinical trials conducted over 40 years, eating at least 25 to 29 grams of dietary fiber per day is ideal for optimal health outcomes. Why? Studies found that people who ate the most fiber experienced a 15 to 30% decrease in all-cause mortality as well as cardiovascular-related deaths in comparison to those who ate the least fiber. So there’s that.
RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
Research also showed that a high fiber intake was associated with less chronic disease among participants. That is, eating plenty of fiber-rich foods has been linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colorectal cancers. Fiber-rich foods are also known to help lower blood cholesterol levels and keep body weight in check, in part because they take longer to move through our systems and therefore keep us feeling full for longer.
Of course, not all carbohydrates (which is where we get much of our fiber from) are created equal. Above all, the study authors recommend replacing refined grains (think: cookies and cakes, white bread) with whole grains like oats, barley, and brown rice. Other fiber-packed foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
RELATED: 6 Delicious Vegetable Recipes for Any Meal
Unless you’re scrupulously studying nutrition labels or Googling the fiber content of chickpeas at the salad bar, chances are the recommendation to eat 25 to 29 grams of fiber per day doesn’t mean a ton to you. To help you get a sense of how easy it is to meet that goal, the simple meal plan below provides a whopping 45 grams of fiber. Sound like overkill? According to a press release from the study’s authors, “Consuming 25 grams to 29 grams each day was adequate but the data suggest that higher intakes of dietary fibre could provide even greater protection.” In other words, feel free to be an overachiever when it comes to feeding your body fiber.
Just remember: Every body is different and some can experience discomfort (think: bloating, gas) when loading up on fiber-rich foods. People who have low iron levels may also want to keep their fiber consumption in check, as phytates—compounds found in plant foods like whole grains and beans—can interfere with iron absorption in the blood.
If you fall into either of the above categories, talk to a registered dietitian or physician about the best way to get adequate fiber while managing your symptoms. For the rest of you, eat all the fiber you want. Your heart (and digestive system and cholesterol levels and the scale) will thank you for it.
Breakfast: Oatmeal made with 1/2 cup of rolled oats topped with 1/4 cup of raspberries and 1/8 cup raw almonds (8 grams)
Snack: 1 cup baby carrots and 2 tablespoons hummus (4 grams)
Lunch: Kale salad with cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, chickpeas, avocado, and walnuts (18 grams)
Snack: Apple with plain Greek yogurt (4.5 grams)
Dinner: 1 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup black beans, roast chicken (10.5 grams)
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