While many of us struggle to decide whether we should completely cut carbs or eat according to the clock, one thing that's nearly guaranteed regardless of the diet plan we follow: We're not getting enough fiber (not even close).
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About 5 percent of Americans meet recommended daily amount (RDA) of fiber — 25 to 38 grams — with most of us filling up on about 16 grams per day, according to 2017 research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
"We're in a fiber deficit in this country," says Tanya Zuckerbrot RD, an NYC-based dietitian and founder of the high-fiber F-Factor Diet. "Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes but many people fall short of the recommended vegetable and whole-grain intake," Zuckerbrot says.
"People who want to lose weight often cut carbs from their diet and then miss out on the fiber from whole grains. Others who do eat carbs often rely mainly on refined carbs for sustenance, in which most of the fiber is stripped out."
The Best Food to Eat for More Fiber
There are plenty of foods that offer good amounts of fiber, but one of the very best is wheat bran. That's because it packs in a significant amount of fiber for very few calories: A quarter-cup of wheat bran offers 6.2 grams of fiber — that's about 24 percent of your RDA — for a mere 30 calories.
And the ultimate high-fiber food, according to Zuckerbrot, is wheat-bran crackers. Just two crackers can fill those fiber gaps, providing 8 grams — and adding 8 grams of fiber to your day means you'll be getting 50 percent more than the typical American eats daily.
"The go-to crackers I recommend and eat myself are GG Bran Crackers. They are all-natural, low-carb and among the highest-fiber crackers on the market. You can have four crackers for the same amount of calories as a slice of white bread, but with 16 times more fiber," she says.
Are You Getting Enough Fiber?
But your wheat-bran options go beyond crackers. In addition to GG, get half of your fiber fix at a single meal or snack with these hearty foods.
1. GG Scandanavian Bran Crispbread Crackers
Get 50 percent more fiber with: 2 crackers
With 40 calories and 8 grams of fiber, two of these crispbreads also supply 8 percent of your daily iron needs. Savor them stacked high with one of Zuckerbrot's favorite topping combos:
- Pizza: Low-fat cottage cheese or mozzarella cheese + tomato sauce + a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, microwaved until melty
- New York-style bagel: Low-fat cream cheese (aka Neufchâtel) + smoked salmon + onion + tomato
- Huevos rancheros: Scrambled eggs or egg whites + salsa + shredded Mexican cheese
- PB&J: Almond or peanut butter + smashed fresh raspberries or strawberries
- Deli sandwich: Turkey or roast beef + Dijon mustard + lettuce and tomato
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16.89 for five 3.5-ounce packages
2. Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds Breakfast Cereal
Get 50 percent more fiber with: ¼ cup of cereal
Try these bran buds in place of breadcrumbs in meatballs or to coat chicken tenders or eggplant Parmesan, Zuckerbrot recommends.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $3.68 per 22-ounce box
3. Nature’s Path Smart Bran Cereal
Get 50 percent more fiber with: ⅓ cup of cereal
Follow Zuckerbrot's lead and assemble a fiber-filled breakfast made with a half-cup of high-fiber cereal, like this one, with a carton of plain Greek yogurt and half a cup of berries.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $31.88 for for six 10.6-ounce boxes
If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, avoid products with wheat bran because wheat and wheat products contain gluten.
Why Eat More Fiber?
Hunger, energy levels and digestion are all directly affected by how much fiber you eat. Fiber is the zero-calorie part of plant-based food that the body's enzymes can't completely break down and, therefore, it passes through the body undigested.
"If soluble fiber is a sponge, insoluble fiber is a broom that sweeps everything out."
"Fiber helps to keep us full between meals, maintains blood sugar control for sustainable energy and promotes digestive regularity," Rachel Fine, RD and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition, tells us. A March 2008 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that fiber binds with some fat and calories and "ushers them out of the body," Zuckerbrot explains.
And eating enough of it has been linked to a lower risk of breast and colon cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble. "Soluble fiber slows digestion and helps to keep you feeling full. It acts like a sponge, swelling in the stomach and soaking up fat and calories," Zuckerbrot says. "If soluble fiber is a sponge, insoluble fiber is a broom that sweeps everything out. It adds bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines."
If you need more convincing to bulk up your fiber quota, Zuckerbrot points to all of these benefits:
- Linked to weight loss and weight maintenance: "Fiber adds bulk to foods without adding calories, so high-fiber foods are low in calories, yet keep you feeling full for hours," she says.
- Can help slow digestion and steady blood sugar levels: "This helps curb sugar cravings and sustains energy," Zuckerbrot adds.
- Satisfies hunger: "Fiber-rich foods often require more chewing, which prompts the secretion of saliva in the mouth and gastric juices in the stomach that promote satiety by signaling the brain when it is full," she says.
- Can support healthy cholesterol levels: Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol levels, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Tied to good gut health: Fiber is a prebiotic that plays a fundamental role in gut health. (Check out 10 prebiotic ingredients to add to your menu.)
- Can promote more restful sleep: "Eating refined carbs late in the day can cause your blood sugar level to peak and then crash while you sleep, which is why some people get up in the middle of the night," Zuckerbrot says. "Eating foods rich in fiber helps keep blood sugar levels steady, which, in turn, can promote more undisturbed rest."
To score all of those wellness wins, and to avoid any stomach woes (such as constipation or diarrhea), it’s best to get fiber from a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber and to drink plenty of water along with it.