Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women and men, respectively, get at least 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily–but the average intake is only 16 grams. And it’s possible that recommendations should be even higher, with some dietitians and physicians1 recommending up to 55 grams of fiber per day. There is a growing belief that higher fiber intake is associated with improved gut health and microbiome diversity, which has been linked to improved health outcomes in multiple areas, including immune function and heart, gut, and brain health. But despite fiber’s many health benefits–including reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, improving digestive function, and promoting satiety and a healthy weight–it’s estimated that only 3% of Americans eat enough fiber! Including fiber-rich foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes, may be especially valuable in helping you maintain your weight: multiple studies2,3,4 have found that individuals who have higher fiber consumption tend to weigh less, and that high-fiber foods may help you consume fewer calories overall.
Adding more fiber is as simple as adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes to your diet–but that’s easier said than done. Sometimes you just don’t have time to whip up a new salad every night or pack sliced vegetables for your snack every day. With a few smart swaps and additions, these strategies will help you boost your fiber intake with minimal effort. Just remember–make changes gradually, as adding too much fiber at once can cause gas and bloating. Start out by adding 5 grams of fiber per day each week until you reach your goal.
1) Add a few tablespoons of hummus to your sandwich instead of mayo: you’ll add about 1 gram of fiber per tablespoon for the same creamy taste and texture.
2) Sneak shredded vegetables like carrots and zucchini into pasta sauces and casseroles. Each cup will add about 3-4 grams to your recipe.
3) Replace part of the fat component in baked goods with pureed fruit like pumpkin or applesauce. A ½-cup serving will add about 2-4 grams of fiber and keep baked goods moist–plus, you’ll cut out additional calories. You can also add grated vegetables to muffin, bread, and pancake mixes–carrots and zucchini work especially well with sweeter flavors.
4) Pureed vegetables like butternut squash and cauliflower blend seamlessly into creamy soups and mac and cheese, as in this recipe. In fact, a study from Penn State found that adults ate two extra servings of vegetables and 350 fewer calories per day when pureed vegetables were added to their meals.
5) If fruit is one of your go-to healthy snacks, opt for higher-fiber fruits like guava (9 g per cup), raspberries (8 g per cup), blackberries (7.6 g per cup), kiwi (5.4 g per cup), and pear (5 g per cup).
6) Add sliced avocado to sandwiches, soups, salads, and more: you probably think of avocado primarily as a fat, but one cup of the fruit has a whopping 10 grams of fiber! You can also add avocado to dessert recipes like smoothies, brownies, muffins, frosting, and mousse.
7) Beans like chickpeas and black beans have started making their way into baked goods as well. For each ½-cup you use, you’ll add 6-10 grams of fiber. Start out with these brownies, which are a reader favorite–and have 7 grams of fiber per brownie!
8) Sprinkle chia seeds or flaxseeds over oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt bowls. A tablespoon of chia seeds will add 5 grams of fiber to your breakfast, and the same serving of flaxseed can add 3 grams. Choose ground flaxseed—and store it in the freezer to preserve freshness—as whole flaxseeds often pass through the body undigested.
9) Add chopped mushrooms or lentils to meatballs, meat sauce or meatloaf: both offer similar meaty, hearty textures. Lentils will get you far in terms of meeting your fiber goals, with 16 grams per cup, but mushrooms (with 1-3 grams per cup) are lower in overall carbohydrates and calories (1 cup has just 16 calories).