Four Simple Rules for Adding Fiber to Your Diet

Close up of multicolored healthy salad
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If you are like me, you see those lists of high fiber foods and think, “How am I supposed to remember what is high in fiber and what isn’t?” In the spirit of simplicity, I offer you four basic guidelines that you can use every day to begin to increase your intake of dietary fiber.

1. Go Green...

And orange, red and white for that matter. You may think you eat a fair amount of vegetables, but do you tend to eat the same ones -- broccoli, carrots and peppers?

 Vegetables are a wonderful source of fiber. The more the variety, the better the mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which help to keep stool firm, yet soft. This encourages a better rhythm of elimination. Branch out and explore vegetables like artichokes, kale, chard, collards, and the many types of beans. Vegetable soups are an excellent way to experience new types of vegetables in a familiar way.

2. Switch to Spring Mix

The typical American salad of a hunk of iceberg lettuce with a few shavings of carrots and a couple of sliced tomatoes is a bit of a fiber wasteland. Changes in food packaging have made the luxury of a salad mix an affordable option. In addition to containing more fiber than iceberg lettuce, a spring mix of lettuces and other leafy greens again offers a more natural mix of soluble and insoluble fiber.

3. Have Fruit With Every Meal

Think beyond having half a grapefruit with breakfast.

Like you will be doing with vegetables, go for variety in type and color when it comes to choosing fruit. Experiment with a tropical fruit salad of mango, papaya, kiwi, and pineapple. Mix frozen berries in with your cereal or smoothie. Dried fruit is an easy, delicious and portable snack (but keep your portions small due to the higher sugar level).

Cook up some pears or apples as a side dish with dinner, or as a delectable dessert.

4. Get to Know Some Helpful Seeds

Flaxseed are these beautiful little caramel-colored seeds from the flax plant. When ground, flaxseed provides a wonderful mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. It is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to be helpful in reducing inflammation. All you need is a small coffee grinder and a few seconds to grind up some flaxseed. Flaxseed has a pleasant, nutty flavor which tastes great when sprinkled over cereal. Ground flaxseed can also be added to baked goods and smoothies, adding fiber without affecting taste. It is important to drink a glass of water when eating flaxseed. Water swells and softens the ground seeds, a process that adds bulk and softness to the stool and therefore offers the potential to be helpful for both diarrhea and constipation problems.

Chia seeds are the seeds of that plant made famous by the novelty item, the ChiaPet.

Chia seeds do not need to be ground before use, but should be pre-soaked for optimal digestion. Chia seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as a good source of fiber. You can easily add chia seeds to smoothies, make them into a pudding, or sprinkle them on salads. 

Note: If you have IBS, there is no need to be afraid of fiber! Just be sure to add in more fiber gradually so as to reduce your risk of experiencing increased gas and bloating. You may also find that you do better with foods containing soluble fiber, rather than those containing insoluble fiber.

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