What to eat for more Fiber?

What should we eat for more fiber? With nutrition boom and a million different diets it is difficult not to get lost in terminology, details and irrelevant, unhealthy “health tips”.

Today, we will talk about what foods to eat to get more fiber. We’ll see why everybody’s talking about fiber, explain some terminology you’ve encountered and make it easy to understand and follow.

 

What’s fiber and why it’s important


Dietary fiber is exclusively found in plant-based foods only. No animal-based product has fiber.

 

Sources of fiber
Fiber is found in plant-based foods only.

 

Fiber, also called dietary fiber is a term, used for plant-based carbohydrates that your body cannot digest. Because it can’t digest it, fibers reach the large intestine or colon. (Source: British Nutrition Foundation)

Even though fiber isn’t digested,

it’s vital for good health.

 

Fiber pulls water from the body into the intestines to keep things moving – which means fiber makes us poo regularly. What is more, these undigested fibers, like stick-urn paper, also gather up nasty chemicals that find their way into our intestines and that might be carcinogenic.

Fiber is a body’s personal cleaner that flushes the nasties down the toilet.

 

So if we don’t consume enough fiber and are chronically depriving our bodies of fiber, we are prone to constipation-based diseases. According to Professor Denis Burkitt, these include large bowel cancer, diverticulosis (small hernias of the digestive tract caused by long-term constipation), hemorrhoids and varicose veins. (Source: The China Study)

To keep things moving, a recommended daily intake for fiber is 30 – 35g/day.

An average US fiber intake is 18g/day.

 

Why do we run low on fiber?


To answer this question, we have to understand what’s the difference between the 2 types of carbohydrates:

  • unrefined, complex carbohydrates and
  • refined, simple carbohydrates.

Let’s start with complex carbs.

 

At least 99% of the carbohydrates that we consume are derived from fruits, vegetables and grains.

 

Complex unrefined carbohydrates
Unprocessed, whole foods like beans, lentils, legumes, vegetable and fruit are good source of fiber.

 

When we eat these foods in their natural form – unprocessed, unrefined, a large proportion of the carbohydrates are in the so-called “complex” form. This means that our body breaks the complex form down, piece by piece in a controlled, regulated manner called digestion.
This category of carbohydrates, complex carbs, includes the many forms of dietary fiber. However, almost all fiber remain undigested yet still provide enormous health benefits (Source: The China Study).

In addition, these complex carbs from whole foods are packaged with vitamins, minerals and accessible energy.

 

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the healthiest foods you can consume to get fiber,

and they are primarily made of carbohydrates.

 

On the other hand, we have refined, simple carbohydrates that have been stripped of their fiber, vitamins and minerals. They have no nutritional value for us, our body. They are what people also call “empty calories” – energy source with no other nutritional value.

Typical simple carbohydrates are found in foods like:

  • white bread,
  • processed snack like crackers and chips made with white flour,
  • sweets, desserts, candy bars and
  • sugar-laden soft drinks.

These highly refined carbohydrates originate from grains or sugar plants. They are broken down during digestion to the simplest form of the carbohydrates, which give the body blood sugar, or quick energy and quick return of hunger. No vitamins, minerals and very little fiber.

 

Processed refined carbohydrates
Processed, refined carbohydrates have very little fiber and no health benefits for our body. They literally just taste good.

 

Unfortunately, most Americans consume large amounts of simple, refined carbohydrates and to little of complex carbohydrates.

For example, in 1996, 42% of Americans ate cakes, cookies, pastries or pies on any given day, while only 10% ate any dark green vegetables. (Source: Information Plus. Nutrition: a key to good health. Wylie, TX: Information Plus, 1999.)

 

Since an average US fiber intake is 18g/day, which is roughly 50% of daily recommendation. You can say, the US has a small, hard and dry fecal problem that is difficult to pass.

 

Soluble and insoluble fiber


Let’s explain some terminology you probably stumbled upon.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water.

Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water.

 

Foods high in soluble fiber can help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time.

For example, after having a 2 slices of white bread and some peanut butter for breakfast, you’ll probably feel hungry in about 2 hours. But 2 slices of wholegrain bread with PB could last 3 or more hours – depends on your metabolism.

And because insoluble fiber absorbs water, it helps to soften the contents of your bowel. In other words, regular, smooth pooping.

 

Constipation
Eating high-fiber diet improves digestion and gut health.

 

What is more, both fibers work towards regular and relaxed poo time. While one type of fiber keeps your toilet stamina on a regular basis, the other type makes your poo the right consistency so you don’t sit on a toilet for prolonged periods of time, poping your eyes out, trying to squeeze it out.

 

The good news that will make things easy: fiber-rich foods typically contain mix of both types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Meaning, you don’t have to stress about the type of fiber as long as you eat wholefoods diet because you’ll get the right mix of both.

 

What to eat for more fiber


Fiber RDI

 

A daily intake of more than 30g is easy to achieve if you switch from packed, processed foods and snacks to plant based wholefoods.

 

For example, you could eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet by only eating foods like pasta made from refined flour, potato chips, soda, sugary cereals and candy bars. Eating this way is a bad idea.

Even though you’re eating plant-based diet, these type of foods aren’t wholefoods and you will not be healthy for long. Wholefoods are foods found in their original, natural state.

Anything that you get on a farmers market is (most likely) wholefoods, anything that you but in a produce section is a wholefood.

In experimental research, the health benefits of a high-carbohydrate diet come from eating the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and not refined, simple carbs.

 

To increase your daily fiber intake you could:

 

 

Additional tips:

  • choose whole grains like wholewheat pasta or brown rice,

 

  • eat potatoes with skins e.g. baked potato or boiled new potatoes – you can eat these hot or use for a salad,

 

  • know which packaged foods are high in fibre by reading the nutrition label on the packaging. Food with at least 4g fibre per 100g is a good source; food with at least 7g fibre per 100g is an excellent source. (Source: British Nutrition Foundation)
Understanding nutrition label
Understand nutrition label at the back of the packaging. (Source: Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute)

 

 

Conclusion


To eat high-fiber diet we need to eat a lot of plant-based whole foods; such as beans, leafy vegetables and whole grains are all high in fiber. Animal-based product don’t have any fiber – meat, cheese, yogurt, etc. have 0g of fiber.

Although we digest very little or no fiber, it helps improve digestion and gut health. Fiber also dilute the caloric density of our diets, so we don’t overeat. It creates a sense of fullness and helps to shut down appetite.

A healthy, balanced diet can provide enough fibre – especially if you eat your 5 A DAY and choose wholegrain foods.

 

 

I hope you found the information that is useful to you. If you have any questions, want to share your experience or just chat on this topic, write a comment below. I’d love to hear your point of view!

Till next time,
Katya

10 thoughts on “What to eat for more Fiber?”

  1. Thanks and I appreciate your suggestions of eating fibrous food to avoid getting into trouble with constipation-related illnesses. But something is bothering me lately…

    Big part of my diet are vegetables and fruits, and we seldom eat meat or fish here. Aside from these foods, I also consume bread, sometimes an ordinary salted bread from a local bakeshop here, while oftentimes, whole wheat bread from an American bake shop called Gardenia.

    I understand that the whole wheat bread is rich in fibers, plus my consumption of vegetables and fruits. I wonder why is it I am still constipated?

    Reply
    • Hi Gomer,

      sometimes to much soluble fiber can cause constipation – specially if you don’t drink enough water. You see, fiber draws water from body and if you don’t drink enough, you can form a really tough cookie. 

      There are couple of things you can try: drink more water, eating more nuts and seeds, if more water doesn’t help, switch to a Magnesium rich water (Mg draws water in the gut and so gives an extra boost in the right direction).

      Travel, stress, change of environment, medication, general health, etc. can lead to constipation as well.

      Try the above suggestions and if it doesn’t help, we can go from there then..but I think it will help 🙂

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  2. Thank you for reminding us of how vital it is to include a lot of fiber in our diets. I try to make sure I have plenty, but sometimes fall short.  Your article is a good reminder.

    It is unfortunate that the American diet is so filled with processed food.  It’s hard sometimes not to include these foods in your meals, but I do try to prepare as many fresh vegetables as possible.  

    If I plan my meals far enough ahead of time, I do okay.  Last-minute meals can be a problem.  Also, the problem I have is having enough healthy snacks on hand so I don’t resort to sugar.  If you haven’t already done so, I’d love to see you do an article on healthy snacks to eat between meals.

    Reply
    • Hi Fran, it’s really convenient to always keep some frozen veggies and then use it for last minute meals. For healthy snacks on the go, just stick to fruits – fresh and dry, unsalted nuts and seeds.

      If you want to navigate supermarket ails you can get some quality crackers, blend up a dip and eat it with carrot, celery, etc.

      I hope this answers your question.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  3. Thank you for this great presentation. 

    I know that fibers are good for the body and helps with digestion. But I didn’t Know that there was 2 types of carbohydrates, the unrefined and the refined one. Should we give priority to the unrefined carbohydrates in our diet? Or should we find a certain balance daily in what we eat to have both unrefined and refined carbohydrates.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hi Adyns68, unrefined carbs should always vastly overweight processed carbs. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with a cookie or two with your coffee. Health freaks would swear to unrefined carbs only and absolutely no added sugar, but I know for myself, I can’t stay away from sweets..so I’d say moderation should be your guide.

      As long as you eat enough whole grains and real food to meet a 30g/day of fiber, a cookie won’t hurt you.

      If you crave sugar, and want to have a healthy sweet snack, get some dates or fruit. If you have good health and need a bit of a comfort food, have a cookie 🙂

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  4. thanks for this post

    i actually have a Question , what is the effect of having a total colostomy ( that is having the whole Colon -large intestine removed and the small intestine connected to the rectum ) on effect of cancer infection , in relation to Fibre rich foods .

    Because the doctors recommended diet is not coming out right .

    The Tummy is always running non stop.

    What is your opinion

    otherwise i loved your post . it really directs towards healthy eating .

    Reply
    • Hi Wiseman, I assume the surgery took place less than couple of months ago? If so, the doctor puts a patient on a prescribed diet while the body heals. Total colectomy is performed when there’s a chronic, serious health issue and a doctor should be the first person to know about any changes.

      I would need more information to give my opinion on what with the tummy and cancer infection. In any case, I would talk it through with a doctor and see what can be done. Here’s an article you can read for more information and peace of mind. 

      But if anything, for any dietary changes, always talk to your doctor and/or dietitian. 

      Hope this helps,

      Katya

      Reply
  5. Hi Katya,

    Thank you for a wonderful article. After reading this article I found a clear idea about fiber. A person needs regular eating every day to live. Eating a high-fiber diet improves digestion and gut health. However, we must keep an eye on the carbohydrate amount. Hopefully, post more articles about health.

    Thanks for your advice and tips.

    Reply
    • Hi Touhidur and thanks for your encouraging words.

      I’ll definitely write more about healthy eating habits..so keep in touch.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply

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