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High Fiber Diet: What to Eat and Health Benefits

collection of fiber rich food
Last Updated on May 29, 2022

Whether your doctor told you to eat more fiber to regulate your blood sugar levels or you’re tired of spending a few too many minutes battling constipation on the loo, a high fiber diet may help.

But by “high fiber,” we’re not talking about a diet based around laxatives like Cardi B and other celebrities use to lose weight. Instead, a high fiber diet doesn’t have any celebs or a one-hit-wonder author representing it—this is simply a diet where you increase your fiber intake by eating whole foods.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about the role of different types of fiber in the body, the best fibrous foods to eat, and the benefits associated with this diet, read on.

An Overview of the High Fiber Diet

Fruits and vegetables in dishes

A high fiber diet involves increasing your intake of plant-based foods that your body can’t fully break down. The main categories of these foods include:

  • Fruit 

  • Grains

  • Vegetables

According to dietitians, women should consume 21-25 grams of fiber per day, and men should eat 30-38 grams. 

Increasing fiber intake in the diet can lower cholesterol, reduce the chance of intestinal cancer, and regulate blood sugar levels.

But if you thought that fiber was just fiber, think again. There are two well-known fiber classifications in the nutrition world, with a third being a more recent discovery.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber stays true to its name because it dissolves to form a gel when it mixes with water. Its role is to reduce how quickly food moves from the stomach to your intestine. Oats, bananas, and barley are all examples of foods with high concentrations of soluble fiber.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber doesn’t break down in water. Instead, its role is of a sponge, retaining water to help make your stool bulkier. Examples of foods with high insoluble fiber concentrations include nuts, seeds, kiwi, and green beans.

Prebiotic Soluble Fiber

It’s unlikely you’ll see the name prebiotic soluble fiber on a food label, given that this is a relatively new finding. 

Prebiotic soluble fiber also goes by the names inulin and fructan. Its role is to ferment healthy colon bacteria, and you can find this type of fiber in foods such as yams, onions, and garlic.

Foods You Can Eat on the High Fiber Diet

peaches, apples, and nuts

Despite the three different kinds of fiber, many foods contain some or all of them in various concentrations. 

So, by eating foods off the list below, you can feel confident that you’ll receive plenty of fiber. We’ve included the amount of fiber per serving these foods contain for your reference:

  • Whole wheat bagel (3 grams)

  • Bran flakes (4 grams)

  • Barley (4 grams)

  • Lentil pasts (6 grams)

  • Kidney beans (6 grams)

  • Sweet potato (4 grams)

  • Lima beans (7 grams)

  • Almonds (3 grams)

  • Chia seeds (10 grams)

  • Banana (2 grams)

  • Orange (3 grams)

  • Brussel sprouts (4 grams)

  • Spinach (2 grams)

  • Carrots (2 grams)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. As any fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole-grain food will have some fiber. 

When looking at food labels, you’ll see grams of fiber listed under “dietary fiber” along with the percentage of daily fiber it represents based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This can help you determine how much you should increase your fiber intake.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Below are some of the advantages you may experience by following a high-fiber diet:

  • Regular bowel movements
  • Reduced chance of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis
  • Lower cholesterol, inflammation, and blood pressure
  • Managing and preventing type 2 diabetes
  • May support with weight loss
  • Could help you live longer
  • A sustainable type of diet

Cons:

Although fiber is crucial in the diet, eating too much can have adverse health effects. For example, it can lead to increased intestinal gas or feeling bloated.

One of the biggest issues people face when trying a high fiber diet is that there’s no single book or set of rules for them to follow. Instead, it’s up to the individual to decide how much fiber and the sources of fiber they include in their diet.

For this reason, if your goal is to start a high fiber diet to manage a current health condition, we advise you to speak with your doctor so they can help set up a plan for your situation.

Benefits of a High Fiber Diet

It’s no secret in the medical world that a high-fiber diet can offer numerous health benefits. Below are some of the most notable ones.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

Studies reveal that an increased fiber intake helps lower a food’s glycemic index. As a result, it helps lower blood glucose and HbA1c levels, which cause issues for people with diabetes. Furthermore, eating a high fiber diet can help rescue the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Deters Colorectal Cancer

People who suffer from frequent constipation not only have the issue of discomfort, but it also gives toxins more time to spend in their body. 

As a result, increasing your insoluble fiber intake encourages food to move through the intestines faster. Studies have found that the result is a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

Weight Management

Fiber is filling, which leads researchers to believe that following a high fiber diet can help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. In addition to serving as an appetite suppressant, soluble fiber improves good gut bacteria, which supports overall health. Researchers found that consuming 30 grams of fiber per day helps with weight management.

Reduced Triglycerides

High triglycerides are a leading issue with cholesterol, but eating a diet high in soluble fiber will help you reduce your triglyceride levels. 

In fact, one study shows that soluble fiber might also be effective at lowering cholesterol levels because it keeps you full enough that you don’t have space to eat foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol levels.

Risks To Be Aware Of

There’s no escaping it—an increased fiber intake will lead to more gas. However, you can reduce this unfortunate side effect by slowly upping your fiber intake. Before long, you should be able to eat fiber without excessive gas.

Bloating is another discomfort that often comes with high fiber diets. Although your body should also adjust to this if you gradually increase your fiber intake.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that many studies support incorporating a high fiber diet into your lifestyle. However, every individual has a unique health profile. 

Therefore, since a high fiber diet doesn’t come with set dos and don’t instructions, it’s best to speak with your doctor so they can design a tailor-made plan to support you with your fiber intake.

References

Improving Your Health With Fiber, retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14400-improving-your-health-with-fiber

Lisa Lillien, What Is a High-fiber Diet?, retrieved from https://www.verywellfit.com/high-fiber-foods-for-weight-loss-1087917 

High Fiber Diet, retrieved from https://www.gicare.com/gi-health-resources/high-fiber-diet/

Jameela Jamil Really Wants You To Stop Taking Diet Tips From Celebrities, retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/vba33a/jameela-jamil-detox-teas-laxatives-celebrities 

Chart of high-fiber foods, retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

Inulin - Uses, Side Effects, and More, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1048/inulin

Dietary Fiber for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis, retrieved from https://www.jabfm.org/content/25/1/16

Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, retrieved from 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4588743/

Making one change — getting more fiber — can help with weight loss, retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/making-one-change-getting-fiber-can-help-weight-loss-201502177721

Triglycerides: Why do they matter?, retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186.

Effect on Blood Lipids of Very High Intakes of Fiber in Diets Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM19930701329010.

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