If you want to decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and cancers like colon cancer, eat more fiber. The Food and Nutrition Board says a healthy adult should have between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day, but most Americans don't get more than 15 grams. Since fiber is found only in plant foods -- grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds -- you'll need to eat more with every meal to reach your 20-gram target. It's not hard, but don't overdo it too soon: increasing your fiber intake abruptly can cause gas, abdominal pain and bloating. Drink plenty of water and ease into a high-fiber meal plan over several weeks.
A typical breakfast on a fiber-rich meal plan might consist of a whole-grain cereal like raisin bran with low- or non-fat milk and a glass of orange juice. The Cleveland Clinic advises choosing breakfast cereals that contain at least 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving; a 3/4-cup serving of raisin bran has 5.3 grams. Orange juice contains about 0.5 gram of fiber in each 8-ounce serving. This breakfast provides approximately 5.8 grams of fiber.
According to the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, you might have a turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread, vegetable sticks and fresh fruit for lunch on a high-fiber meal plan. A sandwich that includes two pieces of whole-wheat bread and some vegetables such as sliced tomatoes and romaine lettuce will provide about 4 grams of dietary fiber. Pairing the sandwich with one fresh raw carrot will add on an additional 2.3 grams of fiber, giving your lunch a total of 6.3 grams.
For a high-fiber dinner, you might have grilled fish with brown rice and steamed or roasted vegetables. Cooked brown rice contains 2.4 grams of dietary fiber in every 1-cup serving. Fiber-rich vegetables include Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green peas and sweet potatoes. If you choose a 1/2-cup serving of baked sweet potato, you'll add 4 grams of dietary fiber to your meal. A dinner with these components contains 6.4 grams of total dietary fiber.
By avoiding high-fat and high-sugar snacks in favor of lower calorie plant-based items, you can easily add more fiber into your diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always good choices, but if you're longing for something crunchy and savory, try popcorn. Air-popped popcorn has 2 grams of fiber in every 3 cups. Toss the popcorn with olive oil and spices for a healthy alternative to commercial popcorn packets.
- Cleveland Clinic: Improving Your Health with Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber - Start Roughing It!
- BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi: High Fiber Meal Plan
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrient Data for 09206, Orange Juice, Raw
- SNAC UCLA: Facts of Fiber
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.