High Fiber Diet

The treatment of several gastrointestinal conditions is based upon the establishment of increased fiber in your diet. These include irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and internal/external hemorrhoids. Some research data also indicates that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may decrease the incidence of colon cancer. In addition, the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Government both recommend a diet with between 35-39 grams of fiber per day. Such a diet may also improve your cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.

The following information should help guide you through the process of increasing the amount of fiber in your diet.

What is fiber?

Fiber is found in plants and is generally not digested or absorbed by the body. Many different types of fibers exist and they are grouped into two broad categories. Each has a role in promoting good health. The two general types are water soluble fibers and insoluble fibers.

Water soluble fibers can aid in the treatment of high cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity. By forming a gel, water soluble fibers stay in your stomach longer and help slow food absorption. Water-soluble fibers are found in oats, bran, dried beans, potatoes, seeds, apples, oranges, and grapefruit.

Insoluble fibers hold water to produce softer, bulkier stools. These fibers are found in wheat and corn brans, nuts and many fruits and vegetables. By promoting better regularity, a diet high in insoluble fibers helps relieve constipation and control diverticular disease. People with diverticular disease are encouraged to eat a high fiber diet with a general avoidance of nuts, seeds, hulls and some skins since these can cause acute inflammation of the diverticula resulting in diverticulitis.

Insoluble fibers may also help in preventing colon cancer.

Tips for increasing fiber in your diet

  • Substitute whole wheat flour for half or all of the flour in home baked goods.
  • When buying breads, crackers and breakfast cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat flour or another whole grain.
  • Use brown rice, whole grain barley, bulgur (cracked wheat), buckwheat, groats (kasha) and millet in soups and salads, or as cereals and side dishes.
  • Try a variety of whole wheat pastas in place of regular pasta.
  • Sprinkle bran in spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, ground meat mixtures and casseroles, pancakes, and other quick breads, and in cooked cereals and fruit crisp toppings.
  • Eat skins and edible seeds of raw fruits and vegetables.
  • For high fiber snacks, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain crackers or popcorn.
  • For lunches, pick crunchy vegetables stuffed in whole wheat pita bread, salads and hearty vegetable and bean soups.
  • For dessert, bake berry pies, apples stuffed with prunes, dates, and raisins; fruit compotes; whole wheat fruit breads; brown rice or whole wheat bread puddings; and whole wheat cakes and cookies.
  • Try Middle Eastern, Oriental and Mexican dishes that make liberal use of vegetables, whole grains and dried beans.
  • Use whole grain or bran cereals for crunchy toppings on ice cream, yogurt, salads or casseroles. Nuts, toasted soybeans, sunflower kernels, and wheat germ also can add interesting flavors and increase the fiber content of you meal.
  • Many vegetarian and high fiber cookbooks contain excellent high fiber recipes.

Note that many fiber values listed on labels, cookbooks and other reference materials use crude fiber values which are now outdated. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the dietary fiber values listed on the following pages when planning your meal menus.

Fiber and Weight Loss

High fiber foods offer a great plus for dieters! Many high fiber foods are naturally bulkier and more filling than refined foods, you tend to eat less calories on high fiber diets.

Avoiding Problems with Increasing Fiber

When increasing your dietary fiber, remember to include a variety of soluble and insoluble fiber food sources including whole grain breads and cereal, fruits and vegetables. While increasing your dietary fiber you should also drink at least 8 cups of fluid every day. Remember that water, milk, juice and decaffeinated sodas, teas and coffee are also sources of fluid.

People who typically eat low fiber diets may experience increased flatulence (gas from below), bloating and occasionally diarrhea when they begin to eat large amounts of fiber all at once. To prevent these discomforts, the amount of fiber in your diet should be gradually increased.

The amount of fiber in your present diet can be estimated with the charts below. Estimate your present fiber intake and increase you weekly fiber intake by 2-4 grams. Thus, if in Week 1, you have a base fiber content of 20 grams/day you would try to increase the amount of fiber to 22-24 grams/day for the first week. Then, in Week 2, the total fiber would be 24-28 grams/day. You can determine the amount of fiber added per day that works best for you. This should be based upon the amount of gas and bloating you experience with the dietary changes. If there is too much gas and bloating, then decrease the amount of fiber.

Remember, the overall goal is to increase the fiber in your diet gradually and maintain this over a lifetime.

Fiber Supplements

Commercial fiber supplements are available, ranging from bran tablets to purified cellulose (an insoluble fiber). Many laxatives sold as stool softeners are actually fiber supplements. Since different types of fibers work in different ways, no one fiber supplement provides all of fiber’s potential benefits. Persons unable to change their diets might benefit from fiber supplements as suggested.

It is more beneficial, however, to increase the amount of dietary fiber by eating a variety of high fiber foods sources.

Dietary Fiber Values

Breads and Pastas

Food

Serving

Fiber

Cooked whole wheat spaghetti

1 cup

4 grams

Whole wheat bread

2 slices

3 grams

Bran muffin

one (1)

3 grams

Crisp bread, wheat or rye

2 crackers

2 grams

Cracked wheat bread

2 slices

2 grams

Mixed grain bread

2 slices

2 grams

Pumpernickel bread

2 slices

2 grams

Brown rice (cooked)

1 cup

2 grams

Spaghetti, macaroni, cooked

1 cup

1 gram

Flours and Grains

Food

Serving

Fiber

Rye Flour

1 cup

14 grams

Wheat Flour, whole meal

1 cup

11 grams

Wheat Flour, brown

1 cup

7 grams

Bran ,corn

2 tbs.

7 grams

Bran, wheat

2 tbs.

5 grams

Bran, oat

2 tbs.

3 grams

Wheat flour, white

1 cup

3 grams

Rolled oats

1/3 cup

2 grams

Cereals

Food

Serving

Fiber

Fiber One

1/3 cup

12 grams

All Bran

1/3 cup

9 grams

100 % Bran

½ cup

8 grams

Bran Buds

1/3 cup

8 grams

Corn Bran

2/3 cup

5 grams

Bran Chex

2/3 cup

5 grams

Shredded Wheat & Bran

2/3 cup

4 grams

Fruit & Fiber

1/3 cup

4 grams

Cracklin' Bran

1/3 cup

4 grams

40 % Bran

¾ cup

4 grams

Most

2/3 cup

4 grams

Raisin Bran

3/4 cup

4 grams

Wheat germ

1/4 cup

3 grams

Honey Bran

7/8 cup

3 grams

Shredded Wheat

2/3 cup

3 grams

Wheat and Raisin Chex

3/4 cup

3 grams

Frosted Mini Wheats

4 biscuits

2 grams

Wheat Chex

2/3 cup

2 grams

Total

1 cup

2 grams

Wheaties

1 cup

2 grams

Nutri-Grain

3/4 cup

2 grams

Graham Crackers

3/4 cup

2 grams

Oatmeal, regular, quick, instant

3/4 cup

2 grams

Grape Nuts

1/4 cup

2 grams

Cheerios

1-1/4 cups

2 grams

Heartland Natural Cereal

1/4 cup

1 gram

Crispy Wheats'n Raisins

3/4 cup

1 gram

100 % Natural Cereal, plain

1/4 cup

1 gram

Tasteeos

1-1/4 cup

1 gram

Cooked Vegetables

Food

Serving

Fiber

Peas

1/2 cup

4 grams

Corn, canned

1/2 cup

3 grams

Parsnips

1 medium

3 grams

Potato w/ skin

1 medium

3 grams

Sweet potato

1 medium

3 grams

Broccoli

1/2 cup

2 grams

Brussels Sprouts

1/2 cup

2 grams

Carrots

1/2 cup

2 grams

Zucchini

1/2 cup

2 grams

Eggplant

1/2 cup

2 grams

Spinach

1/2 cup

2 grams

Green Beans

1/2 cup

2 grams

Turnips

1/2 cup

2 grams

Sauerkraut

1/2 cup

4 grams

Kale leaves

1/2 cup

1 gram

Potato w/o skin

1 medium

1 gram

Squash, summer

1/2 cup

1 gram

Asparagus

1/2 cup

1 gram

Cauliflower

1/2 cup

1 gram

Cabbage, red or white

1/2 cup

1 gram

Raw Vegetables

Food

Serving

Fiber

Avocado

1/2 medium

2 grams

Bean sprouts

1/2 cup

2 grams

Tomatoes

1 medium

2 grams

Spinach

1/2 cup

1 gram

Lettuce

1 cup

1 gram

Mushroom

1/2 cup

1 gram

Onions

1/2 cup

1 gram

Celery

1/2 cup

1 gram

Legumes

Food

Serving

Fiber

Baked beans w/ tomato sauce

1/2 cup

9 grams

Kidney Beans, cooked

1/2 cup

7 grams

Navy Beans

1/2 cup

6 grams

Dried peas, cooked

1/2 cup

5 grams

Lima Beans, canned & cooked

½ cup

5 grams

Lentils, cooked

1/2 cup

4 grams

Snacks

Food

Serving

Fiber

Almonds

1/4 cup

5 grams

Peanuts

1/4 cup

3 grams

Popcorn, popped

3 cups

2 grams

Walnut pieces

1/4 cup

2 grams

Olives

10

2 grams

Fruits

Food

Serving

Fiber

Blackberries

1/2 cup

5 grams

Pears

1 large

5 grams

Apple

1 medium

4 grams

Prunes

4

4 grams

Raspberries

1/2 cup

3 grams

Raisins

1/4 cup

3 grams

Honeydew Melon

1/4 medium

3 grams

Strawberries

1 cup

3 grams

Orange

1 medium

3 grams

Nectarine

1 medium

3 grams

Banana

1 medium

2 grams

Blueberries

1/2 cup

2 grams

Peach w/ skin

1 medium

2 grams

Dates

3

2 grams

Apricots, dried

5 halves

1 gram

Cherries, sweet

10

1 gram

Peach w/o skin

1

1 grams

Pineapple

1/2 cup

1 gram

Cantaloupe

1/4

1 gram

Credits for this dietary information go to Maureen Murtaugh, PhD.