We all know that fiber is an important part of a well-rounded diet, but it can be overwhelming to figure out how to add fiber to your diet in a healthy way. Learn more about the digestive benefits of fiber and the top food sources of fiber below!
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. Instead of being broken down into sugar during digestion, fiber moves through the digestive system intact.
The presence of fiber helps keep your digestion moving and gives you regular bowel movements. Fiber also slows down digestion, which helps you feel full for longer and minimizes blood sugar spikes after eating (1).
A high-fiber diet is well known for improving digestive health, but it has many other health benefits as well. Increasing your fiber intake can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure while reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (1).
Unprocessed plant foods are the best way to increase your fiber intake. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (1).
Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. A high-fiber diet should include a variety of foods that provide both sources of fiber because they have different health benefits.
Soluble fiber absorbs water in the digestive tract, giving it a gel-like texture. It can help improve digestive concerns like diarrhea by adding bulk to the stool (1, 2).
A diet rich in soluble fiber is also beneficial for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Examples of soluble fiber include apples, bananas, potatoes, and oatmeal (1).
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water and instead helps your digestion move along, reducing constipation. Brown rice, beans, kale, and nuts are good sources of insoluble fiber (1).
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 22-28 grams of fiber per day for women and 28-34 grams per day for men. It is estimated that over 90% of Americans don’t meet the daily fiber recommendation (3).
The best way to add fiber to your diet is to think about ways to incorporate plant foods into the meals you already eat. Do you enjoy stir-fries? Try choosing brown rice instead of white rice and including broccoli for a fiber boost.
Snacks are also a great way to add more fiber to your diet. High-fiber snack foods include popcorn, fruit, and trail mix.
As you add fiber into your diet, you might notice some mild gas and bloating, which should improve as your body gets used to having more fiber. Slowly increase your fiber intake while drinking plenty of water to reduce digestive upset.
In some cases, increasing fiber may not be beneficial. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before increasing fiber if you have a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or diverticulitis.
Top 15 High-Fiber Foods
What are the highest-fiber foods? These 15 foods top the charts in fiber content and are a great place to start if you want to increase your fiber intake.
1. Navy Beans
Navy beans are one of the highest-fiber foods you can find. Just half a cup of navy beans provides over 9 grams of fiber (4).
All beans are excellent sources of fiber, most of which provide 6-8 grams of fiber per serving. These include black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and pinto beans.
Enjoy beans in a soup or chili, on a salad, in a burrito, or as hummus.
Barley is known for being the star of many soups and is a fiber-rich whole grain. One cup of cooked barley has 6 grams of fiber (4).
Not a fan of barley? Most whole grains provide 4-6 grams of fiber per serving. Common examples are quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat flour (4).
One of the simplest ways to increase your fiber intake while helping cholesterol levels is by starting your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. One cup of cooked old-fashioned oats has 4 grams of fiber (4).
If you want a big fiber boost, consider adding oat bran to your diet. Just one ounce provides a whopping 12 grams of fiber. Try adding oat bran to baked goods, like muffins or pancakes (4).
Artichokes are another excellent way to get more soluble fiber. One-half cup of artichoke hearts has almost 5 grams of fiber (6).
If you’re not sure how to incorporate artichokes into your diet, try this healthy, creamy artichoke dip.
Pears are one of the highest-fiber fruits, with 6 grams of fiber in a medium-sized pear (4). In particular, pears have a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them an excellent choice for digestive health.
In addition to being a popular source of heart-healthy fats, almonds also pack in the fiber. With 4 grams of fiber in just ¼ cup or a small handful, almonds are a great way to add fiber to your snacks or morning oatmeal (4).
If almonds aren’t your favorite, don’t worry! Most other nuts have between 2 and 3 grams of fiber per serving, including pistachios, peanuts, and walnuts.
11. Chia Seeds
Popularized by chia pets in the ‘80s, chia seeds are now known for their numerous health benefits, like improving digestion and heart health.
Chia seeds have almost 10 grams of fiber in one ounce (about two tablespoons) (7). Flax seeds are a close second, with 8 grams of fiber per ounce (4).
Add chia or flax seeds to your morning oatmeal, or try them in baked goods for a fiber boost.
You’ve likely heard about berries being an excellent source of fiber. Raspberries are among the highest, with 8 grams of fiber per cup.
Blackberries are another great choice because they have fiber content similar to raspberries (4).
Pair one cup of raspberries with ¼ cup of almonds for a snack, and you’re almost halfway to your daily fiber goal!
13. Split Peas
Part of the legume family with beans and lentils, split peas are also high in fiber. A ½ cup serving of split peas provides 8 grams of fiber. Split pea soup, anyone?
If you’re not a fan of split peas, regular green peas will do. They have 7 grams of fiber in a half-cup portion (4).
14. Acorn Squash
This winter squash has a whopping 9 grams of fiber per cup (4). Enjoy acorn squash roasted or in creamy soups. You can even eat it as a dessert by baking the squash halves with butter and brown sugar.
15. Brussels Sprouts
One cup of brussels sprouts provides 6 grams of fiber. Try roasting brussels sprouts for the best flavor and texture. Another high-fiber vegetable in the same family is broccoli, with 5 grams per cup (4).
High Fiber Oatmeal Breakfast
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1/4 cup almonds chopped, if desired
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- 1 tbsp honey optional
- Rinse the raspberries and set them aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the oats, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, add the chia seeds, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture starts to get too thick, add more water to thin it out to your desired consistency.
- After 5 minutes, remove from heat. Pour the oatmeal into a bowl and top with the raspberries and almonds. You can also add additional toppings of your choice, such as more nuts, fruit, or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
- Serve and enjoy your delicious, high-fiber breakfast oatmeal!