While it can often seem like the nutrition world is divided on nearly every topic—like the healthiness or danger of eggs, coffee and carbs—there's one thing almost every nutrition professional agrees on: Fiber is incredibly healthy and almost all of us need to be eating more of it!
Thankfully, the rest of the world appears to be catching up. High-fiber diets are no longer thought of as prunes and Metamucil for elderly people. Now, tending to your gut health is becoming something to post about (case in point: both #guthealth and #fiber have over 1.8 million posts on Instagram), and that's a trend we can certainly get behind!
As popular as it's becoming, it's not enough. More than 95 percent of Americans don't consume enough fiber on a daily basis, and that's a serious problem for so many aspects of our health. Find out why we are big fans of the new high-fiber diet trend, why you should consider trying it and how to ramp up your intake at home with ease.
Fiber can only be found naturally in whole, plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends women consume 25 grams or more per day and men should get at least 38 grams. Most of us only consume around 17 grams a day on average.
Want to increase the fiber in your diet? Start by making realistic, small tweaks. Swap out your refined grains for whole varieties, serve a side salad with dinner on weeknights and add a handful of berries or an apple to your breakfast each morning. Little changes like that can make a huge difference. Just make sure you're also drinking plenty of fluids to help all this additional fiber pass through the body!
Forget the expensive juice cleanses! Whether you're looking to fight bloating, lose weight, improve your gut health, or simply get a little more regular, a high-fiber diet can help. Since fiber isn't digestible, it wasn't clear how eating it helped. It turns out that it is digestible, just not directly: Fiber is a prebiotic, which means it feeds your good gut bacteria and helps creates a healthy microbiome. And that microbiome, when it's not ailing, aids in digestion, helps you maintain a balanced weight, and even boosts your mental health!
Following a high-fiber diet also means you're consuming more of the wholesome, plant-based foods mentioned above, which happen to be some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Apples, berries, salads and their ilk are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help protect you against chronic diseases like cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber also plays a key role in both weight loss and maintenance. Fiber-rich foods fill you up faster and keep you satisfied for longer, making a great combination for losing weight. One 2015 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found dieters told only to ramp up their fiber intake to 30 grams per day, saw significant weight loss—and just as much as those put on a restrictive, "clean eating" diet.
One 2015 study out of the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal, found consuming fiber from whole foods is likely better than supplements or fortified foods and beverages, as naturally high-fiber foods contain a gold mine of other essential nutrients we often miss out on. Here are a few of our favorites:
Berries are a nutritious way to sweeten up your meals and snacks without any added sugars. Besides being high in fiber—raspberries boast eight grams per cup!—berries are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants, which protect you from heart disease and inflammation. Our Spinach & Strawberry Pasta Salad, Raspberry Yogurt With Dark Chocolate and Creamy Blueberry-Pecan Overnight Oatmeal are three delicious ways to step up your berry game at any point in your day.
McKel Kooienga, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., once said, "Why do the matcha and gojis if you're not even getting in eight to ten cups of greens a day?" Dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, swiss chard and collard greens are full of not only fiber, but a plethora of essential nutrients—for a much lower price than those expensive "superfood" products on the market today. Try collards in our Slow-Cooker Jambalaya, spinach in our Spanakopita Loaded Potatoes or try this game-changing Kale Salad With Preserved Lemon & Walnuts for a serious fiber boost.
Legumes like chickpeas and lentils are finally starting to get the spotlight they deserve in the U.S. Just a half-cup of chickpeas contains more than two-thirds of our daily fiber needs! Plus, the legume family is an excellent source of plant protein, iron, B vitamins, magnesium and calcium. Even better, you can always find a can of beans for less than a dollar! Try out our Squash & Red Lentil Curry Soup for your next week of meal prep or our Crispy Chickpea Grain Bowl With Lemon Vinaigrette for your new favorite weeknight dinner.
While there is no need to be fearful of carbs, there are certainly some that are better than others. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat products, as well as sweet potatoes, popcorn and oats are all fabulous sources of fiber. Fiber helps these carbs get digested more slowly, keeping you fuller longer than refined carbohydrates do. These healthy carbs also come with protein, vitamins and minerals to boot. Try our Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes recipe on your next sleepy Saturday morning or our Almond-Butter-Quinoa Blondies for a delicious, high-fiber treat.
Have we sold you on high-fiber diets yet? If so, let us help you get started! We have some pretty delicious high-fiber meal plans on our site, whether you're looking for a simple 1-Day Reset Meal Plan, a full 7-Day High-Fiber Meal Plan or even a 3-Day Meal Plan to Help You Poop!
Nutritional Information Source: USDA Food Composition Database