read Dietary Fiber: Simple Ways to Improve Your Intake

Dietary Fiber: Simple Ways to Improve Your Intake

Ways to increase your dietary fiber intake

If you have been struggling to lose weight or battling conditions like constipation and indigestion, it may be an indication of your daily diet lacking adequate dietary fiber or roughage. Making fruits, vegetables, and whole grains a substantial part of your meals, would make a huge difference.   

What is dietary fiber and why do you need it?

Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that is not digested by the human body. The National Institute of Nutrition, India, recommends 30g-40g of daily fiber intake. Fiber is found in the outer layer (husk) of grains, skin and seeds of fruits, pulp of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and so on.

Dietary fiber is an important yet overlooked part of the diet. These days, people tend to eat less fiber and more processed food, which is convenient, tasty, and has a longer shelf-life. But these do not necessarily translate into health benefits. Hence, meeting your daily dietary fiber goals (both soluble and insoluble) becomes a challenging task.

Fiber in your diet has several advantages. It will keep you fuller for longer, keep the digestive system clean and healthy, prevent constipation, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Also read: Foods That Keep You Fuller for Longer on Fewer Calories

Here are some quick tips that may help increase fiber in your daily meals.

Consume vegetables in every meal

Most vegetables are rich in dietary fiber. Including them in every meal will help improve your dietary fiber intake. Even a small serving of raw carrots adds 1.5g-2g dietary fiber to your daily intake. A vegetable sandwich for breakfast, one or two vegetable preparations (sabzi) for lunch and dinner, vegetable sticks with dips for a snack are some examples.

Also watch: How to Increase Your Vegetable Intake?

Say yes to fresh fruits

Fresh fruits have high fiber content and being sweet to taste, are one of the easiest ways to consume fiber. A bowl of diced papaya can give you 4g-5g of dietary fiber. You may have these whole or add them to your smoothies, salad, or your breakfast porridge.

Add seeds to your diet

Seeds including chia, pumpkin, sunflower, flax, etc are high in dietary fiber. Check out the fiber content available in some common seeds:

SeedsQuantityDietary fiber% Daily value
Flax seeds1 tablespoon (15g)2.6g6.5%
Chia seeds1 tablespoon (15g)3.4g8.5%
Sesame seeds (til)1 tablespoon (15g)1.7g4.25%
Fennel seeds (saunf)1 tablespoon (15g)3.9g9.99%

*based on fiber intake of 40g per day

You may add these to your breakfast porridge, salad or simply add it to water, squeeze in lemon juice, and make a refreshing summer drink. 

Pro-tip: Soak your chia seeds in water (for 10 to 15 minutes). They will form a gel-like coating that helps increase the bulk of your stools.

Add legumes and pulses to rice-based meals

Rice-based (polished/ white rice) meals are usually lower in dietary fiber. Therefore, adding legumes or pulses to increase dietary fiber to your rice preparation (idli, dosa, mixed veg rice, or pulao) can be a good idea. For instance, a bowl of red gram/ lentil soup (sambar or dal) can increase the dietary fiber content by 3g-4g (almost 10% of your daily requirement).

You can keep a ratio of pulse to rice as 1:1 or 2:1 for higher fiber intake.  Other options for fiber-rich, rice-based meals are mixed lentil rice preparation (dal khichdi) and cooked rice with kidney beans (rajma chawal)

Go for whole grain breads/ Indian breads (roti)

Your regular intake of Indian bread (roti) can add fiber to your diet. Whole wheat roti or millet flour like finger millet, pearl millet (ragi, jowar) roti is highly beneficial. You can obtain up to 11.3g of dietary fibers from just eating three to three-and-a-half Indian bread, meeting about 25% of your required fiber intake.

Sample meal plan

Meal typeMealIngredients% DV of dietary fibers 
Breakfast1 glass (250ml) green smoothie 1 bowl chopped baby spinach + 1 glass milk + 2 tablespoon oats + 1 tablespoon chia seeds + ½ apple22%
Lunch2 multigrain Indian breads (roti) + 1 bowl vegetable preparation (sabzi) + 1 small bowl lentil soup (thick dal) 1 small bowl of whole grain flour + 1 bowl chopped carrots + ½ cup (30g raw )lentil26% 
Dinner1 bowl broken wheat preparation (khichdi) with curd1 bowl broken wheat + 1 bowl chopped vegetables + 1/2 bowl of green gram dal 29.7%
Snack 11 bowl papaya salad 1 bowl diced papaya + 1 tablespoon (15g) lightly roasted flax seeds + a pinch of rock salt or preferred spices17%
Snack 2A fistful of nuts 2-3 roasted almonds + 1-2 walnuts + 2-3 pistachios 2.15%

Note: This is a sample meal plan that fulfils approximately 97% of the daily fiber requirement based on fiber intake of 40g per day.

You may easily use the above mentioned fiber–rich ingredients to prepare your meals and fulfil your daily fiber requirement for better health. Eat smart, stay fit. 

References
 1. Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, et al. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. World J Gastroenterol 2012; 18: 7378–83.
2. Singh A, Singh SN. Dietary fiber content of indian diets. Asian J Pharm Clin Res 2015; 8: 58–61.
3. Puri S, Krishnaswamy S, Joshi S, Urooj A, et al. Position of the Indian Dietetic Association : Dietary Fibre and Health 2018
4. Makki K, Deehan EC, Walter J, et al. The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Cell Host Microbe 2018; 23: 705–15.
5. Roberts SB, Heyman MB. Dietary composition and obesity: Do we need to look beyond dietary fat? J Nutr 2000; 130.
6. Ananthan R, Bhaskarachary K, Venkaiah K, editors. Indian Food Composition Tables. National Institute of Nutrition, 2017.
7. National Institute of Nutrition. Nutrient Requirements and Recommended Dietary Allowances for Indians. Rep Expert Gr Indian Counc Med Res 2009

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