Facts about Fiber

Fiber is a buzz word these days, especially in the grocery store. Many food items will claim that they are high in fiber, but it leaves us wondering: ‘How much fiber do we actually need in a day?’ And, a lot of times, it can seem impossible to get that much in! Fiber, an undigested carbohydrate found only in plants, plays an essential role in our body. We previously reviewed the daily goal for fiber intake (20-35 grams per day depending on age and sex) when we discussed food labels.

I am constantly looking for ways to increase my fiber intake with the foods I eat. I challenge you to spend a day calculating how many grams of fiber you are actually eating compared to what your goal should be. And then, look for ways that you can make small switches to what you are currently eating to incorporate a greater amount of fiber.  In college, I can guarantee there were days that I was consuming less than half of the amount of fiber that I should have been. Without knowing better, I thought I was being “healthy” by purchasing foods that were lower in calories without looking at the nutrient density of the foods I was eating. For instance, 90 calorie Special K bars were my ‘go-to’ breakfast, but I would be hungry an hour later due to the lack of protein and fiber. Now, by choosing a breakfast with at least 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, I am fuller longer.

It’s important to know that there are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Each type plays a specific role in the body.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel like material. The benefit of soluble fiber is that it helps lower blood cholesterol, keeps blood sugars steady and adds bulk to stools. Some specific examples of foods that contain soluble fiber include barley, oats, dried beans and peas, and citrus fruits.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and increases GI transit time. The benefit to insoluble fiber is that it prevents constipation and stimulates the gastrointestinal tract. Some examples of insoluble fiber include whole grains, wheat bran and many vegetables.

Ideally, look at the total fiber of the foods you are eating to ensure you are reaching your daily goal. A fiber rich food will likely include both types of fiber.

It is extremely important that you gradually build up your fiber intake by making small changes. Try making a switch to a higher fiber food once per week until you have reached your goal. Also, drink plenty of water! If you do not drink enough water, the fiber can bulk up but not pass, causing discomfort.

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Here are some fiber tips, tricks and ideas!

Grains 

  1. Choose breakfast or snack bars with >5 grams fiber (strive for 5 grams or less sugar). EX: KIND bars (~7 grams fiber per bar), Fiber D’Lish bars (~12 grams fiber per bar), Fiber One Chewy Bars (~9 grams fiber per bar. Be cautious of sugar content though- some are better than others!), ThinkThin bars (~5 grams fiber per bar).
  2. Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal! Choose a high fiber option for even more fiber! EX: Quaker Oats High Fiber Instant Oatmeal (10 grams fiber per serving).
  3. Incorporate granola into your day. Mix with yogurt and fresh fruit for a high fiber breakfast or snack. Try making your own recipe for a healthier option!
  4. Add bran (~12 grams per one ounce on average) to baked products (muffins) or as a crunchy topping to casseroles.
  5. Choose cereal with >5 grams fiber per serving. EX: Fiber One Original (14 grams fiber per serving), Fiber One Raisin Bran or Honey Clusters (10 grams fiber per serving), Kashi Go Lean Crunch (8 grams fiber per serving).
  6. Switch for high fiber bread for sandwiches. EX: Orowheat Double Fiber bread (1 slice, 80 calories, 5 grams total fiber) OR Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Double Fiber bread (1 slice, 100 calories, 6 grams total fiber).
  7. Choose whole wheat pasta (~6 grams per 1 cup) or brown rice (4 grams per 1 cup). 
  8. Try quinoa for a fiber and protein rich meal! (5 grams fiber per 1 cup)
  9. Snack on air popped popcorn for a low calorie, fiber rich food! (4 grams for 3 cup serving).

Legumes (beans and peas)- Most beans and peas average around 15 grams fiber per 1 cup serving!

  1. Cook beans or peas and serve as a side with a dinner entree.
  2. Mix into salad for a fiber rich topping!
  3. Make a whole wheat taco incorporating beans and other vegetables – like this recipe we shared last week!
  4. Try a meatless dinner with a black bean burger and whole wheat hamburger bun.

Fruit and Vegetables:

  1. Choose vegetables that are the highest sources of fiber: Peas (green, cooked- 14 grams per 1 cup), artichoke (cooked, 7 grams per 1/2 cup), broccoli (cooked-5 grams per 1 cup), brussel sprouts (cooked- 6 grams per 1 cup).
  2. Choose fruits that are the highest sources of fiber: Avocado (9 grams in 1/2 fruit), Raspberries (8 grams per 1 cup), blackberries (8 grams per 1 cup), prunes (6  grams in 1/2 cup, dried), pear (6 grams in a medium size), apple (4 grams in a medium size), orange (4 grams in a medium size).
  3. Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips or crackers
  4. Eat raw when possible including the peel! Cooking for a long period of time can reduce the fiber content.
  5. Choose frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned! They have the same fiber content as fresh/ raw.
  6. Go for kale or spinach as the base for your salad to get an extra boost of fiber!
  7. Create a smoothie with your favorite high fiber fruits and vegetables! By choosing a smoothie instead of juicing, you get the added benefit of fiber from the fruit.
  8. Create your own trail mix with nuts and dried fruit (like raisins or prunes) for a high fiber snack!
  9. Choose the whole fruit instead of fruit juice.

High fiber additives – Try adding flaxseed (8 grams fiber in 1 ounce) or chia seeds (10 grams fiber in 1 ounce) to your cereals, yogurt, overnight oats, baked products, or smoothies.

**For more information, check out this great WebMD article about substituting a normal day’s meal plan for high fiber foods.

Talk to us! What are some of your favorite high fiber foods? We would love for you to share with the HBH community!

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