5 ways to get enough fiber in your diet

avocado on cracker
© GG crispbread with avocado. (Melissa Breyer)

Most of us aren't getting enough fiber, and that's a problem. Here's how to get more.

You know what you rarely see? Instagram wellness influencers touting dietary fiber with the same passion they have for turmeric lattes and gluten-free muffins. Poor fiber. It has the unfortunate distinction of being associated with older relatives in need of "regularity," and thus doesn't get a lot of fanfare. Sure, we hear that we should eat whole grains instead of refined ones for their fiber, but other than that, not very many people rhapsodize over fiber.

And that's a problem, according to the U.S. FDA. The agency says that most Americans do not get the recommended amount of dietary fiber, calling it a "nutrient of public health concern" because low intakes are associated with so many potential health risks. As Vox reports, only 5 percent of people in the U.S. meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily target.

Not too long ago, a major analyses found that 25 to 29 grams of fiber a day can add years to your life, and the benefits are even higher when you consume 30 grams or more. The researchers found that those who ate the most fiber had a 15 to 30 percent decrease in a whole slew of health issues, included all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality. That's meaningful!

And while the magic number for risk reduction was between 25 grams and 29 grams a day, they found that eating 30 grams or more “could confer even greater benefit to protect against cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal and breast cancer.”

So how does one get enough of this actual superfood? Try the following.

1. Know how much fiber you're eating in the first place

Counting the fiber in your diet can be a bit tedious, but it's important to know if you're getting enough and if not, how much more you should be striving for. It's not something that needs to be done everyday, but it's a great exercise for a few days to see if you are close to getting enough – you might be surprised at how little you are getting. (I was when I did this!) I love the food diary tool at My Fitness Pal – it's very easy to search and enter foods, and then it tallies everything up for you.

2. Learn the fiber swaps

I wrote "10 surprising food swaps to get more fiber," and even I was surprised by how much more fiberfull some foods are than others. For example, a cup of green grapes has 1.3 grams fiber (for 100 calories), while a cup of raspberries has 9 grams fiber (for 70 calories).

3. Switch up the snacks

To me, there is something about the word "snack" that says COOKIE. Alas, the snack slot is a great place to get a good boost of fiber, think nuts, seeds, and fruit. Aside from my avocado crispbread (see next item) my other two favorite fiber-minded snacks are popcorn and oatmeal. Air-popped popcorn has around 4 grams of fiber in a 3-cup serving, which is about 100 calories. And I know oatmeal doesn't sound much like a snack, but we make a big batch of steel-cut oats and keep it in the fridge for quick breakfasts. I skip it for breakfast, but have a little bowl of it (4 grams of fiber) with blackstrap molasses (20 percent daily value of iron!) when I want a snack, and it's about 100 times more satisfying than a cookie.

4. Try eating crispbreads

My Norwegian grandmother got me hooked on crispbreads when I was young; I had no idea how fiber-forward they are! GG recently sent me some samples of their Scandinavian fiber crispbreads and I was pretty surprised by their fiber content. The sunflower seed version, pictured above and my favorite, has 3 grams of fiber per cracker. (Per calorie, it has much more fiber than whole wheat bread and much fewer net carbs.) My avocado cracker snack above has around 11 grams of fiber for about 170 calories, and it was delicious. (Lots of other nutrients as well, but I am just calculating fiber here.)

5. Make high-fiber foods part of your daily diet

I know this is obvious, but it has to be said: Eat foods high in fiber. Here is a random sample of fiber amounts from the FDA to give you an idea of what you may be eating and where to get more. Basically, think whole grains, beans and pulses, vegetables and fruits.

High fiber bran ready-to-eat cereal: 1/2 cup serving – 9.1 to 14.3 grams
Cooked navy beans: 1/2 cup serving – 9.6 grams
Canned chickpeas: 1/2 cup serving – 8.1 grams
Fresh pear: Medium size – 5.5 grams
Avocado: 1/2 cup serving 5.0 grams
Green peas: 1/2 cup serving 3.5 to 4.4 grams
Raspberries: 1/2 cup serving 4.0 grams
Baked potato with skin: One medium – 3.6 grams
Whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked: 1/2 cup serving – 3.2 grams
Orange or banana: One medium – 3.1 grams

Lastly, be wary of foods with added fiber

A lot processed foods add in a few dashes of fiber to boost the profile, but all too often they are doing so to combat the otherwise unhealthy ingredients, like loads of added sugar and fat. remember that fiber from real food sources – like fruits, vegetables, and grains – is the goal.

For more, see related stories below.

5 ways to get enough fiber in your diet
Most of us aren't getting enough fiber, and that's a problem. Here's how to get more.

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