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HF 403

Weight Management : Fiber Focus

Fiber is found only in foods that come from plants. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble. Both types are good for your health and provide different benefits.

Insoluble fibers are not changed during digestion. They draw water into the intestine and help to prevent constipation. They also support colon function and health. Good sources of insoluble fiber include:

  • Wheat bran,

  • Vegetables,

  • Fruits (with skins),

  • Legumes (dry beans and peas),

  • Whole-grain foods.

Soluble fibers soak up water and become gel-like in the stomach and intestine. These fibers reduce the risk of heart disease by blocking the absorption of fats and cholesterol. This slows the absorption of sugars from the intestine and reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood sugars. Foods that are high in soluble fiber (>4 grams per serving) include:

  • Oats, oatmeal, oat bran and barley,

  • High fiber multigrain clusters,

  • Bran flakes or whole grain oats,

  • Beans and lentils (i.e. kidney beans),

  • Some vegetables,

  • Some fruits,

  • Flax seeds, chia seeds,

  • Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts provide greater than 2 grams of soluble fiber per serving.

How much fiber should I have in my diet?

Healthy eating includes 25-35 grams of fiber daily. Currently, most Americans only eat 15 grams of fiber each day. If you include at least 10 grams of soluble fiber per day, it can help lower LDL cholesterol. Here are some ideas to help you to include more total fiber and soluble fiber into your diet.

  • Choose oatmeal, oat bran or whole grain cereals for breakfast. Some cold cereals are made from oats, but they contain less fiber than oatmeal or oat bran. Read nutrition labels and choose cereals with at least 3-4 grams of fiber per serving.

  • Sprinkle ground flax seed on cereal, yogurt or fruit. It has a nutty flavor. Be sure to store the ground flax seed in the refrigerator and use it up within a couple weeks. You can also buy whole flax seed, which can be safely stored for months, and grind it yourself with a coffee grinder. Grind only small amounts at a time.

  • Include at least 1 to 2 cups of fruit every day. Choose whole fruits rather than juices because they are higher in fiber. Fresh, frozen, canned (in light syrup, water or 100% juice) or dried fruits will provide soluble fiber.

  • Eat more meals with beans. Navy, kidney, pinto, or garbanzo beans and lentils are good protein substitutes for meat. When you buy canned beans, be sure they are the no added salt version.

  • Include vegetables in your meals and snacks. Aim to eat 2 to 3 cups every day. Try to fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Use fresh or frozen vegetables most of the time. If you use canned vegetables, use the no salt added version.

  • Choose high quality whole grains. This includes products made from oat, barley, wheat, bran, rye, quinoa, wild or brown rice, millet, or amaranth. Be sure to purchase 100% whole grain or products where “whole” is used in the first ingredient.

  • Fiber and water work together. Be sure to drink 8-10 (8 ounce) glasses of fluid or more every day. Without enough fluid, high fiber meal plans can be constipating, since fiber absorbs large amounts of water. When you increase fiber in your everyday eating, it is best to do this over several weeks to prevent problems with bloating, gas or diarrhea.

Tips for Reading Food Labels to Increase Fiber in Your Diet

  • Look for the word “whole” grain (such as oats, barley, wheat, rye, or corn) in the ingredient list as one of the first ingredients or foods labeled with 100% whole grain on the front of the package.

  • Limit foods with “refined” or “enriched” grains. Refined foods often have less fiber and vitamins/minerals. Enriched foods have nutrients added back into the food that are removed in processing. Enriched foods do not have all the nutrients added that are removed.

  • Choose foods that are “fortified” as these have additional vitamins and minerals that American diets lack.

  • Choose foods that have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving or more than 5% daily value.

  • It is not required for food products to have soluble and insoluble fiber listed on the food label. However, if the packaging claims to have soluble or insoluble fiber then the grams must be listed on the label.

  • Ingredients that are present in higher amounts are listed in the beginning of the ingredient list. If you see a whole grain as one of the first 3 ingredients it means that there is more fiber in that food.

How much fiber am I getting from different foods that I eat?

High Fiber Fruits
(more than 3 grams fiber per serving)
Apple, 1 large, unpeeled*
Avocado, ½*
Blackberries, ½ cup*
Blueberries, ½ cup
Banana (8-3/4” long)*
Dates, 3 dried*
Orange, 1 medium*
Pear, 1 unpeeled*
Prunes, 5 dried*
Raspberries, ½ cup
Raisins, 1.5 oz (about 75)

High Fiber Vegetables
(more than 3 grams fiber per serving)
Artichokes, ½ cup
Brussels sprouts, ½ cup*
Butternut squash
Broccoli, ½ cup*
Edamame, ½ cup
Green peas, cooked, ½ cup
Pumpkin, canned ½ cup
Potato with skin, large
Parsnip, ½ cup
Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup*
Lima beans, cooked, ½ cup*
Mushrooms, canned, ½ cup
Navy, black, soy beans, cooked, ½ cup
Spinach, cooked, ½ cup
Spinach, raw, 2 cups
Sweet potato, peeled, med
Squash, acorn or butternut, cooked, ½ cup*

Moderate Fiber Fruits
(less than 2 grams fiber per serving)
Apricots, 4 halves, canned or dried
Applesauce, cooked ½ cup
Cantaloupe, ½ cup
Cherries, sweet, ½ cup
Fruit cocktail canned, ½ cup
Grapefruit sections, ½*
Grapes, green or red, ½ cup
Honeydew melon, ½ cup
Kiwi, sliced
Mango, ½ peeled, without pit
Mandarin oranges
Nectarine, 2½ inch
Olives, 5 green or black
Peach, peeled
Pears, peeled, 2 halves
Pineapple, ½ cup
Strawberries, ½ cup
Tangerine, 1 medium
Watermelon, ½ cup

Moderate Fiber Vegetables
(less than 2 grams fiber per serving)
Asparagus, ½ cup
Bean sprouts, ½ cup
Beet slices canned, ½ cup
Celery, ½ cup
Cucumber peeled, ½ cup
Cabbage cooked, ½ cup
Carrot, 1 large*
Cauliflower, ½ cup
Green beans, ½ cup
Mix veg canned, ½ cup
Mushrooms fresh, ½ cup
Onions, ½ cup
Potatoes, peeled, ½ cup
Peppers, ½ cup
Radish, ½ cup
Sweet potatoes, peeled, ½ cup
Spinach cooked, ½ cup
Tomato, ½ cup canned or 2½ inch fresh
Zucchini, ½ cup

*Indicates fruits/vegetables that are higher in soluble fiber

Who to Call

If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please call UW Health at one of the phone numbers below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition.

Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at (608) 890-5500.

Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at (608) 287-2770.