The following information should help guide you through the process of increasing the amount of fiber in your diet.
What is fiber?
Fiber is found in plants and is generally not digested or absorbed by the body. Many different types of fiber exist. They can be separated into two broad categories. Each has a role in promoting good health. The two types of fiber are water soluble and water insoluble.
Water soluble fibers can aid in the treatment of high cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity. By forming a gel, water soluble fibers stay in your stomach longer and help slow food absorption. Water-soluble fibers are found in oats, bran, dried beans, potatoes, seeds, apples, oranges, and grapefruit.
Insoluble fibers hold water to produce softer, bulkier stools. These fibers are found in wheat and corn brans, nuts and many fruits and vegetables. By promoting better regularity, a diet high in insoluble fibers helps relieve constipation and control diverticular disease. People with diverticular disease are encouraged to eat a high fiber diet. The latest data show that one need not avoid pits, nuts, or seeds with diverticulosis. Actually, as reported in a study of men only, popcorn and nuts may be protective against both diverticulitis and diverticular bleeding.
Insoluble fibers may also help in preventing colon cancer.
Tips for increasing fiber in your diet
- Substitute whole wheat flour for half or all of the flour in home baked goods.
- When buying breads, crackers, and breakfast cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat flour or another whole grain.
- Use brown rice, whole grain barley, bulgur (cracked wheat), buckwheat, groats (kasha) and millet in soups and salads, or as cereals and side dishes.
- Try a variety of whole wheat pastas in place of regular pasta.
- Sprinkle bran in spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, ground meat mixtures, and casseroles, pancakes, and other quick breads, and in cooked cereals and fruit crisp toppings.
- Eat skins and edible seeds of raw fruits and vegetables.
- For high fiber snacks, eat fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grain crackers, and popcorn
- For lunches, pick crunchy vegetables stuffed in whole wheat pita bread, salads, and hearty vegetable and bean soups.
- For dessert, bake berry pies, apples stuffed with prunes, dates, and raisins; fruit compotes; whole wheat fruit breads; brown rice or whole wheat bread puddings; and whole wheat cakes and cookies.
- Try Middle Eastern, Oriental and Mexican dishes that make liberal use of vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans.
- Use whole grain or bran cereals for crunchy toppings on ice cream, yogurt, salads, or casseroles. Nuts, toasted soybeans, sunflower kernels, and wheat germ also can add interesting flavors and increase the fiber content of you meal.
- Many vegetarian and high fiber cookbooks contain excellent high fiber recipes.
Note that many fiber values listed on labels, cookbooks and other reference materials use crude fiber values which are now outdated. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the dietary fiber values listed on the following pages when planning your meal menus.
Fiber and Weight Loss
High fiber foods offer a great plus for dieters! Many high fiber foods are naturally bulkier and more filling than refined foods; you tend to eat consume less calories on high fiber diets.
Avoiding Problems with Increasing Fiber
When increasing your dietary fiber, remember to include a variety of soluble and insoluble fiber food sources including whole grain breads and cereal, fruits and vegetables. While increasing your dietary fiber you should also drink at least 8 cups of fluid every day. Remember that water, milk, juice and decaffeinated sodas, teas and coffee are also sources of fluid.
People who typically eat low fiber diets may experience increased flatulence (gas from below), bloating and occasionally diarrhea when they begin to eat large amounts of fiber all at once. To prevent these discomforts, the amount of fiber in your diet should be gradually increased.
The amount of fiber in your present diet can be estimated with the charts below. Estimate your present fiber intake and increase your weekly fiber intake by 2-4 grams. Thus, if in Week 1, you have a base fiber content of 20 grams/day you would try to increase the amount of fiber to 22-24 grams/day for the first week. Then, in Week 2, the total fiber would be 24-28 grams/day. You can determine the amount of fiber added per day that works best for you. This should be based upon the amount of gas and bloating you experience with the dietary changes. If there is too much gas and bloating, then decrease the amount of fiber.
Remember, the overall goal is to increase the fiber in your diet gradually and maintain this over a lifetime.
Commercial fiber supplements are available, ranging from bran tablets to purified cellulose (an insoluble fiber). Many laxatives sold as stool softeners are actually fiber supplements. Since different types of fibers work in different ways, no one fiber supplement provides all of fiber’s potential benefits. Persons unable to change their diets might benefit from fiber supplements as suggested.
It is more beneficial, however, to increase the amount of dietary fiber by eating a variety of high fiber food sources.
Dietary Fiber Values
Breads and Pastas
|Cooked whole wheat spaghetti||1 cup||4 grams|
|Whole wheat bread||2 slices||3 grams|
|Bran muffin||one (1)||3 grams|
|Crisp bread, wheat or rye||2 crackers||2 grams|
|Cracked wheat bread||2 slices||2 grams|
|Mixed grain bread||2 slices||2 grams|
|Pumpernickel bread||2 slices||2 grams|
|Brown rice (cooked)||1 cup||2 grams|
|Spaghetti, macaroni, cooked||1 cup||1 gram|
Flours and Grains
|Rye Flour||1 cup||14 grams|
|Wheat Flour, whole meal||1 cup||11 grams|
|Wheat Flour, brown||1 cup||7 grams|
|Bran ,corn||2 tbs.||7 grams|
|Bran, wheat||2 tbs.||5 grams|
|Bran, oat||2 tbs.||3 grams|
|Wheat flour, white||1 cup||3 grams|
|Rolled oats||1/3 cup||2 grams|
|Fiber One||1/3 cup||12 grams|
|All Bran||1/3 cup||9 grams|
|100 % Bran||1/2 cup||8 grams|
|Bran Buds||1/3 cup||8 grams|
|Corn Bran||2/3 cup||5 grams|
|Bran Chex||2/3 cup||5 grams|
|Shredded Wheat & Bran||2/3 cup||4 grams|
|Fruit & Fiber||1/3 cup||4 grams|
|Cracklin’ Bran||1/3 cup||4 grams|
|40 % Bran||3/4 cup||4 grams|
|Most||2/3 cup||4 grams|
|Raisin Bran||3/4 cup||4 grams|
|Wheat germ||1/4 cup||3 grams|
|Honey Bran||7/8 cup||3 grams|
|Shredded Wheat||2/3 cup||3 grams|
|Wheat and Raisin Chex||3/4 cup||3 grams|
|Frosted Mini Wheats||4 biscuits||2 grams|
|Wheat Chex||2/3 cup||2 grams|
|Total||1 cup||2 grams|
|Wheaties||1 cup||2 grams|
|Nutri-Grain||3/4 cup||2 grams|
|Graham Crackers||3/4 cup||2 grams|
|Oatmeal, regular, quick, instant||3/4 cup||2 grams|
|Grape Nuts||1/4 cup||2 grams|
|Cheerios||1 1/4 cups||2 grams|
|Heartland Natural Cereal||1/4 cup||1 gram|
|Crispy Wheats’n Raisins||3/4 cup||1 gram|
|100 % Natural Cereal, plain||1/4 cup||1 gram|
|Tasteeos||1 1/4 cup||1 gram|
|Peas||1/2 cup||4 grams|
|Corn, canned||1/2 cup||3 grams|
|Parsnips||1 medium||3 grams|
|Potato w/ skin||1 medium||3 grams|
|Sweet potato||1 medium||3 grams|
|Broccoli||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Brussel Sprouts||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Carrots||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Zucchini||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Eggplant||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Spinach||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Green Beans||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Turnips||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Sauerkraut||1/2 cup||4 grams|
|Kale leaves||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Potato w/o skin||1 medium||1 gram|
|Squash, summer||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Asparagus||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Cauliflower||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Cabbage, red or white||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Avocado||1/2 medium||2 grams|
|Bean sprouts||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Tomatoes||1 medium||2 grams|
|Spinach||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Lettuce||1 cup||1 gram|
|Mushroom||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Onions||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Celery||1/2 cup||1 gram|
|Baked beans w/ tomato sauce||1/2 cup||9 grams|
|Kidney Beans, cooked||1/2 cup||7 grams|
|Navy Beans||1/2 cup||6 grams|
|Dried peas, cooked||1/2 cup||5 grams|
|Lima Beans, canned & cooked||1/2 cup||5 grams|
|Lentils, cooked||1/2 cup||4 grams|
|Almonds||1/4 cup||5 grams|
|Peanuts||1/4 cup||3 grams|
|Popcorn, popped||3 cups||2 grams|
|Walnut pieces||1/4 cup||2 grams|
|Blackberries||1/2 cup||5 grams|
|Pears||1 large||5 grams|
|Apple||1 medium||4 grams|
|Raspberries||1/2 cup||3 grams|
|Raisins||1/4 cup||3 grams|
|Honeydew Melon||1/4 medium||3 grams|
|Strawberries||1 cup||3 grams|
|Orange||1 medium||3 grams|
|Nectarine||1 medium||3 grams|
|Banana||1 medium||2 grams|
|Blueberries||1/2 cup||2 grams|
|Peach w/ skin||1 medium||2 grams|
|Apricots, dried||5 halves||1 gram|
|Cherries, sweet||10||1 gram|
|Peach w/o skin||1||1 grams|
|Pineapple||1/2 cup||1 gram|