Increasing Daily Fiber Intake

High Fiber Foods on a wooden background.

Why is fiber important?

Fiber is what gives strength and structure to plants. Most grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits contain fiber. Foods rich in fiber are often low in calories and fat, yet they are more filling. They may also reduce risk for certain health problems including heart disease, diabetes, digestive issues and certain cancers.

There are two types of fiber in our diet:

  • Soluble: Soluble fibers absorb water during digestion. This adds bulk to stool and can help prevent heart disease by reducing cholesterol. Soluble fiber can also help control blood sugar levels. Dietary sources include lentils and beans, oats, apples, pears, citrus fruits, banana, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, peas and berries.
  • Insoluble: Insoluble fibers to not dissolve in water and remain unchanged during digestion. They promote normal movement of food throughout the digestive system and help prevent constipation. Dietary sources include whole wheat flour, nuts/seeds, beans, cauliflower, green beans, potato skins, apple skin, corn and carrots.

How much fiber do I need?

Women should aim for 25-28 grams of fiber per day. Men should aim for 30-33 grams per day. After age 50 your daily fiber needs drop to 22 grams for women and 28 grams for men. Aim for 5-10 grams of your daily fiber to come from soluble fiber sources. Fiber intake is a good measure of the overall quality of your diet. If your daily fiber intake is low you may be lacking other important nutrients as well.

Use food labels to compare products to find the most fiber. First pay attention to the serving size and from there compare the amount of fiber in your choices. 5 grams of dietary fiber or more per serving is most beneficial, but find at least 3 grams or more in any of your grain products (bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, cereals, granola, crackers).

Easy ways to increase fiber:

  • When eating out, order a side salad and split an entrĂ©e with someone
  • Consume 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day
  • Switch to using whole grains like whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, high fiber cereal, quinoa, barley and whole wheat pastas
  • Add beans to your next soup or salad
  • Keep a jar of oat bran or wheat germ handy. Sprinkle over salad, soup, breakfast cereals and yogurt