Starting a High-Fiber Diet

By: Shaun Dreisbach  |  March/April 2016  |  Get Your Daily Fiber Fix

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Starting a high-fiber diet is good for your health. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 25 grams of fiber a day—minimum—and men should shoot for at least 38 grams. Those numbers are based on research linking that amount with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. "Because the body doesn't break down fiber, it won't increase blood sugar levels—which can help prevent and even manage diabetes," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet. For your heart: "It absorbs 'bad' LDL cholesterol and ushers it out of the body." And a fiber-rich diet can prevent a whole host of other health conditions, plus facilitate weight loss. A word of caution: Don't go all in, all at once, if your current diet is pretty low in fiber. You could end up with unpleasant G.I. issues and stomach cramps. To get started eating more fiber with minimal side effects; add it slowly. Start adding 5 grams of fiber per day. And be sure to drink plenty of water, which fiber needs to help move things along.
Pictured recipe: Tex-Mex Black Bean & Quinoa Bowl
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The Easy Way to Eat Your Daily Fiber Requirements
The average American gets a measly 17 grams of fiber a day. And "most of it comes from pizza crust and pasta noodles—which are low in fiber, but because we eat so much of them, it adds up," notes Wendy Dahl, Ph.D., R.D., an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida. Not exactly the healthiest choices. Meanwhile, better-for-you foods that are loaded with fiber—like beans, peas and lentils—make up only 6 percent of our diets. "We need to eat more beans," she says. Time to up the ante! Here's a 1-day snapshot of how to bump up to at least 25 (for women) and 38 (for men) grams, without having to eat an entire crisper drawer of produce.

1 cup oatmeal and 1 cup blackberries:
12 g fiber

1 cup bran flakes and 1/2 cup raspberries:
11 g fiber

Sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread with sliced chicken breast*, lettuce, tomato and ¼ avocado:
8 g fiber

1 cup black bean soup, and 1 whole-wheat tortilla, heated:
11 g fiber

2 dried figs:
2 g fiber

¼ cup peanuts:
3 g fiber

½ cup cooked quinoa, piece of grilled fish* and ½ cup cooked chard:
5 g fiber

1 medium baked potato (with skin), piece of grilled chicken* and 2 cups roasted broccoli:
14 g fiber

DAILY TOTAL: 27 grams fiber DAILY TOTAL: 39 grams fiber
*Feel free to sub in your protein of choice—you’re not getting any fiber from it.