The average American consumes about 14 grams of fiber per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the daily recommended fiber intake for women is 25 grams daily. Meeting the daily fiber recommendations can have many health-related benefits, and eating fiber-rich whole foods is the best way to accomplish this. As you gradually boost your fiber intake, increase your water consumption to avoid experiencing stomach cramps, bloating, gassiness and constipation.
Fiber in Your Diet
To ensure you are consuming high-fiber foods, choose those with a fiber content of 5 grams of fiber or more. Dietary fiber is the part of plant-based foods that your body cannot digest. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol levels by absorbing the cholesterol and preventing it from entering your bloodstream. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and aids in digestion, improving bowel movements and preventing constipation.
Consuming both types of fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight. Fiber is a natural appetite suppressant helping you feel fuller longer. When you eat more fiber you tend to eat fewer calories, which in turn helps with weight loss and maintenance.
One of the easiest ways to get more fiber in your diet is to start eating a high-fiber breakfast. For example, 3/4 cup of bran flakes topped with 1 cup of raspberries will provide you with 13.3 grams of fiber for breakfast. Another choice might be a toasted whole wheat muffin, which contains 4.5 grams of fiber; top it with a tablespoon of peanut butter to add another 1.9 grams. Including a medium apple with skin, which has 4.4 grams of fiber, would give you a total of 10.8 grams of fiber.
Eating at least one serving of whole-wheat pasta, beans or bread and adding fruit or a small salad will provide you with a healthful, high-fiber lunch. A low-fat chicken breast sandwich on whole-grain bread and one medium banana supplies a total of 6.9 grams of fiber. You could also opt for a cup of cooked lentils, which provides 15.3 grams of fiber.
Eating more vegetables for dinner is a great way to increase your fiber intake. Plan your dinners around a vegetable main dish like a vegetable stir-fry and then add other foods to complement it. You could use 1 cup of sweet corn, which has 3.6 grams of fiber; 1 cup of chopped carrots, which also has 3.6 grams of fiber; and 1 cup of broccoli with 4.6 grams of fiber for a total of 11.8 grams. You might also consume a leafy green salad with chopped veggies with your dinner every night.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet
- American Institute for Cancer Research: The Facts about Fiber
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database
Donna Ricketts is a public health educator based in Oakland. She holds a master’s degree in public health from San Francisco State University, as well as a bachelor's degree in exercise, nutrition and wellness from California State University, East Bay.