05 Jan 5 Ways to Add More Fiber Without Overdoing It
A reader recently asked me a question about fiber: “Fiber is an essential nutrient for gut health, heart health, blood sugar stability, and satisfaction after eating. But can you overdo it?” I typically get asked how to get more fiber into the diet, but I wanted to address this question since you can overdo it when it comes to fiber or if it is not introduced properly into your diet.
What is fiber?
While most nutrients get absorbed in the body, fiber is a complex carbohydrates that are passed through our system without being digested by enzymes. Fiber can be broken into two categories, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in oats, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, flaxseeds, and beans, dissolve into a gel-like substance. Research suggests that consuming soluble fiber can help lower LDL (AKA “bad”) cholesterol which is beneficial for heart health. Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables, whole grains, and wheat bran, and moves through the body undigested to keep our gastrointestinal system moving regularly. Additionally, fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer which can reduce excess calories consumed throughout the day.
How much fiber should you eat?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends people to consume 14g of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. For an average person consuming 2,000 calories, that would mean that they should consume 28g fiber each day. Americans fall short of that recommendation, however, and on average consume only 11g of fiber per day. To add more fiber into your diet, it is important to gradually add it so that you don’t have bloating, gas, and indigestion. That means if you’re going to start eating more fiber, start increasing it by 5 or 7 grams over time until you reach your goal.
Fiber’s best partner in crime? Water. Without water, eating too much fiber can cause your system to back up which results in cramping and constipation. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to ensure you are staying hydrated. Also, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which also contribute to your daily fluid needs.
What happens if you take in too much fiber?
Can you have too much of a good thing? In the case of fiber consumption, yes. Eating more than 50g of fiber can cause cramping, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. In addition, nutrients such as vitamins and minerals won’t have enough time to get absorbed if you consume too much fiber since they will be going too quickly through your gastrointestinal tract.
5 ways to healthfully incorporate more fiber into your diet
- Meatless Monday
Incorporating beans, whole grains, and vegetables into your daily diet is one of the best ways to ensure that you are consuming adequate fiber and Meatless Mondays, a vegetarian day of the week, is a great way to accomplish that. If you don’t want to go meatless on Monday, then you can choose to do so any other day of the week.
- Use Avocado for Mayonnaise or Butter
One easy way to add fiber into your day is to swap avocado for butter or mayonnaise, such as this recipe for avocado toast.
- Swap beans for flour in baked goods
Swapping white flour for black beans in brownies is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and get more fiber at the same time.
- Mix up your whole grains
Varying your whole grains will ensure you don’t get bored with meals while adding different whole grains to your diet.
Recipe to try: Quinoa salad with chickpeas, fresh herbs and lemon tahini dressing by Sound Bites Nutrition by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
- Canned beans to soup
Adding canned beans to a soup can help slowly increase the fiber in your meals without adding a lot of extra effort, time, or money.