About a year ago, I was dealing with a lot of digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, and constipation. After a lot of research on this topic, I transitioned to a plant based diet with the goal of getting more fiber rich foods in my diet. This has absolutely helped me begin to get my poorly functioning gut back in order. If gut health is at the top of your priority list, then you’ll want to know these 7 tips for adding more fiber to your diet.
So what does fiber have to do with gut health? EVERYTHING.
And unfortunately, there are a lot of people walking around with unhealthy gut symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation…yeah, we’re going there), but they’re not paying a bit of attention to their fiber intake. Folks are mostly worried about getting enough fat and protein in their diets these days, so fiber has taken the back seat.
I’ve had many conversations with people who are chronically constipated, and I believe it’s because they aren’t paying attention to their fiber intake. Our culture is obsessed with protein, fats, and calories, but we need to be more concerned about maintaining a healthy gut.
Fiber keeps your gut healthy by feeding the good guy bacteria in your gut. It also helps to move waste through and out of your digestive tract, which means you’ll lose the bloating and be left with a flatter tummy. (Thanks fiber.) And fiber also keeps you fuller for longer because it takes longer to digest.
I’ve been tracking my daily fiber intake for a while now, mainly because I like knowing what’s working well for my body, and the benefits I’ve seen and felt with a good daily fiber intake include: less bloating, less gas, more regularity in bowel movements, flatter tummy, not feeling ravenous between meals, and more. I’ve noticed such a remarkable difference in the way I feel, so now I’m sharing the tips that have worked well for me.
7 Tips For Adding More Fiber To Your Diet
1. Increase your intake slowly | I recommend getting a general idea of how much fiber you get now by tracking your meals for a week or so. There are plenty of apps that can help you with this. My favorites are MyFitnessPal and CalorieKing. Once you’ve figured how much fiber you’re getting most days now, you can slowly start to increase that amount. When I first started eating this way, I would become gassy after eating just 1/4 cup of beans on a salad. Now, a few months later, I can eat 1/2 cup of beans with no problem at all. Increasing fiber intake slowly is key. Let’s repeat that: increasing fiber intake slowly is key.
2. Spread your fiber intake out throughout the day | Now that you have a better idea of how many grams of fiber you want to be eating each day, divide that number by 3, and that’s how many grams you’ll want to shoot for with each meal. For me personally, I shoot for somewhere around 35-40 grams of fiber a day, so I try to make sure I get about 12 grams of fiber with each of my meals. I’ve learned that if I try to get too much at once, it causes a lot of gas, bloating, and even constipation for me.
3. Start with fiber at breakfast | When I get plenty of fiber at my first meal of the day, I notice that it keeps me so much more satiated throughout the rest of the day. If I start with a meal that’s lower in fiber, it feels like I’m hungry after just an hour or two. My favorite high-fiber breakfast choices are a bowl of oats with fruit and nuts or seeds, a Food For Life sprouted grain English muffin topped with almond butter and berries or smashed avocado, or a higher fiber cereal like Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 or Engine 2 Rip’s Big Bowl topped with sliced banana or fresh berries.
4. Add flaxseed or chia seeds | These seeds are both really rich in fiber, so I try to add a tablespoon of one or the other to my breakfast most days, either in my oats or cereal, or sprinkled on top of my toast. I also love adding chia seeds to warmed cashew milk and cacao powder, for an afternoon pudding snack.
5. Eat veggies with both lunch and dinner | Of course vegetables have an incredibly high fiber content. I don’t have a favorite for fiber, I just try to eat as many different varieties as possible. Most days my lunch looks like a couple big handfuls of greens (spinach, baby kale, baby greens), about 1/2 cup of any other veggies I have on hand in the fridge, and my protein and fat of choice. At dinner I always have a few more servings of veggies, whether that’s in a pasta dish, a stir fry, or on one of my go-to dinner sandwiches. A good general rule of thumb is to go for as many different colors as possible in your dish. Raw or cooked, it doesn’t really matter too much. Just get your veggies.
6. Add more beans, lentils, and legumes to your diet | All beans, lentils, and legumes are very rich in fiber. Canned beans or lentils are the easiest option. Just rinse and drain them and sprinkle 1/2 cup or so (less if you’re just starting out) on top of a salad. Or, try black bean tacos or pasta with white beans as a dinner option. Don’t forget about other delicious legumes like green peas. I also keep organic tofu and tempeh in my refrigerator. These are both made from soybeans and are my go-to options when I need to make a meal quickly.
7. Be sure you’re drinking enough water | Another reason people have digestive symptoms when they increase their fiber intake is that they don’t drink enough water. Water helps fiber do its job effectively, so together they work to keep your bowels moving. Increasing fiber and not drinking enough water can cause gas, bloating, and constipation, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system. Just as I try to spread my fiber intake out throughout the day, I do the same with my water intake. I have a 24 oz glass jar that I fill up with water three times everyday and I try to time my water intake within the “windows” of eating my meals, if that makes sense. This way I know I’m drinking enough water to keep moving all the fiber I’m eating through my digestive system, where it’s doing its job.