Eating more fiber is a great way to take care of your heart — but it can also benefit your whole body. Foods high in fiber can help lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.1 And a study in The Journal of Nutrition found that a high-fiber diet can help with weight loss, too.2
Yet the average American eats only about 15 grams of fiber per day — well below the recommended amount. Women under 50 should aim for 25 grams per day, while women over 50 should consume 21 grams of fiber per day. For men under 50, the daily recommended amount jumps to 38 grams per day, or 30 grams per day for men over 50.3
So, how should you get more fiber in your diet? Cardiologist Mingsum Lee, MD, and registered dietitian Stephanie Burke, MS, RD, at Kaiser Permanente share the many benefits of fiber — and tips on how to add fiber to your day.
The health benefits of fiber
Fiber has many health benefits. For example, it:
Promotes heart health
"Fiber lowers your risk factors and reduces your risk of developing heart disease," says Dr. Lee. "If you already have heart disease, fiber reduces your risk of dying from heart disease."
Helps with weight management
"Fiber can help keep you full longer. And learning to listen to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness is a part of intuitive eating — which can help you have a healthy relationship with food," says Burke.
Eating soluble fiber — the kind found in beans and oats — is a great way to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — also known as "bad" cholesterol.
3 tips for eating more fiber
Dietary fiber is found in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Here are simple steps you can take to eat more fiber.
- Add fiber to every meal. "Spread fiber out throughout the day," says Burke. "Try to include a fruit, vegetable, or other plant-based food, such as oatmeal with breakfast, whole wheat bread on your sandwich at lunch, and beans with dinner."
- Focus on whole grains. What’s the number one tip for heart health? "Eat more whole grains," says Dr. Lee. So instead of white bread or refined pasta, try farro or quinoa as the base of your next meal.
- Snack smart. Keep healthy foods on hand, such as avocados and fresh berries, so you’ll have heart-healthy options. Not sure how much fiber is in your food? Look at food labels, which will tell you the amount of fiber in a product — along with the Percent Daily Value (%DV).
Like with any change to your diet, remember to make sure to talk to your doctor first. It’s also important to increase your fiber intake slowly — especially if you’ve been on a low-fiber diet. This will give your body time to adjust. If you start to feel bloated or develop excessive gas, you may need to increase your daily fiber more slowly.
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