Our diet has changed since the dawn of mankind. Again and again it is said that we consume too little dietary fiber. But what exactly is fiber and why is it important?
If you've ever wondered that, you've come to the right place. In the following, we would like to explain to you why high-fiber foods can contribute to a balanced diet and what else you should pay attention to.
the essentials in brief
- Dietary fibers are food components that are not processed by the body. They contribute to intestinal health.
- Adults should consume 30 grams of fiber per day through their food. Regular dietary fiber intake can have health-promoting effects.
- Foods high in fiber, such as cabbage and legumes, are often associated with intestinal problems. Herbs can help to reduce flatulence caused by high-fiber foods.
High-fiber foods: what you should know
The name fiber initially suggests that it is something useless. However, fiber has many health benefits and should be an integral part of your diet. We have answered the most important questions about fiber here:
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fibers are food components that the human body can hardly or not at all process. This is due to their structure, because dietary fiber consists of multiple sugars that the body cannot digest. However, they still have a function, because they contribute to intestinal health.
Dietary fiber supports intestinal health.
Most dietary fiber is a carbohydrate. In nature, dietary fiber is often found in plant fibers, but there are also functional dietary fibers that are man-made. (7)
Fiber should be part of a balanced diet. (Source: Lubos Houska / Pixabay)
In addition, a distinction is made between soluble fiber, which can be found in fruit and vegetables, for example, and insoluble fiber, which can be found in whole grain products, for example. Both groups should be adequately covered, which is why a varied diet is the be-all and end-all (3).
How many grams of high-fiber foods should I be eating per day?
The German Society for Nutrition recommends an amount of 30 grams of fiber per day for adults. On average, women and seniors have lower calorie needs than men, so the nutrient content per gram should be higher for them. (10)
Which foods are high in fiber?
As the table shows, high-fiber foods are mostly found in plant-based foods. If you want to add more fiber to your diet, you should focus on whole grain products.
|Fiber per 100g||Groceries|
|over 30 grams||Linseed, bran, cocoa powder|
|15 to 25 grams||Dried beans, lentils and peas|
|10 to 15 grams||Whole grain rye, wheat, barley|
|5 to 10 grams||Spelled, unripe spelt, oats , wholemeal bread and whole wheat pasta, boiled beans, cooked lentils, lots of nuts and oilseeds (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame, sunflower seeds), chocolate with a high cocoa content|
|3 to 5 grams||white bread, white flour, root and tuber vegetables such as celery or carrots, Fennel, fresh peas, lots of berries|
|1 to 3 grams||Brown rice, potatoes, most fruits, fruit vegetables, leafy greens, lettuce, milk chocolate|
The table was taken from the book linked here (6). Further down in the text we have also named some foods that are rather low in fiber.
What are the health advantages and disadvantages of a high-fiber diet?
A high-fiber diet can be beneficial to health in many cases. A meta-study shows that a regular intake of dietary fiber can protect against strokes (8). Experiments on mice also indicate that a high-fiber diet can prevent cardiovascular diseases (1).
Furthermore, a high-fiber diet has a blood sugar-lowering effect, which is why it is used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus (9). There is also evidence that a high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, but this is not yet fully confirmed.
A study showing that a high-fiber diet lowers the risk of diverticulosis shows that fiber is important for intestinal health (4). These are just a few examples of the scientifically studied effects of a high-fiber diet.
Unfortunately, eating high-fiber foods is often associated with gas and other intestinal problems. This is often the case, especially with isolated substitute products (2). Therefore, it is recommended to slowly get used to a high-fiber diet.
Are high-fiber foods good for losing weight?
Yes, but not all. At first glance, high-fiber foods have more calories. However, it should be noted that the body cannot absorb them all. In addition, foods rich in fiber, such as brown rice or oat bran, keep you full for longer. With every diet, it is important to pay attention to the basal metabolic rate and your own calorie consumption.
A high-fiber diet can be very varied and is also plant-based. (Image source: beckyperren / Pixabay)
Vegetables and fruits are mostly low in calories and high in volume. They are therefore particularly suitable for a high-fiber and low-calorie diet. Nuts, on the other hand, have a very high calorie content and high fat content, which is why they should only be consumed in moderation.
Are high-fiber foods suitable for children?
Recommendations relating to children are mostly derived from adult values and are therefore not always correct (9). In general, it can be said that children often do not consume enough dietary fiber. However, too high an intake is also not recommended for children of normal weight, as otherwise not enough nutrients may be absorbed. In the US, a consumption of 19 to 30 grams per day is recommended for children (6).
Which high-fiber foods are not associated with bloating?
For most people, fiber-related bloating goes away after a period of adjustment. To start, soups and smoothies can help with fiber absorption. Even small changes, such as switching from white bread to whole grain bread (5), rarely lead to severe symptoms.
Herbs reduce gas.
Many people complain about intestinal problems, especially with legumes and types of cabbage. If you add herbs such as anise, fennel and caraway to the dishes, your problems can be reduced.
Which foods tend to be low in fiber?
If you should rather avoid high-fiber foods due to a doctor's recommendation or for other reasons, we have listed foods that are rather low in fiber here.
- fish, seafood
- Eggs of all bird species
- Dairy products without the addition of high-fiber foods
- many types of sugar, honey, caramel
- soft drinks and alcohol
Foods low in fiber can easily be made richer or substituted. We've collected a few ideas for you on how to add fiber to your meals.
Meat should generally be eaten in moderation. If you don't want to do without it, whole grain rice and vegetables can serve as a good side dish. It is also well suited in combination with cabbage, for example kale and savoy cabbage. Alternatively, meat substitutes can be a solution: They are made from plants, such as peas or soy, and often have a lower fat content.
The same applies here as with meat, because the side dishes are decisive. Wholemeal bread with salmon can be a tasty and high-fiber snack. Legumes can also be a good supplement. How about a tuna salad with kidney beans, for example. Algae can be a plant-based alternative that is richer in fiber. Like fish, they have a salty taste and are good in salads, for example.
Eggs are often used in baking. If you don't want to do without them, you can simply add fiber when choosing the flour. So you can easily replace wheat flour with rye flour. But there are also egg substitutes and many recipes in which eggs are not necessary.
There are now a large number of plant-based alternatives to dairy products. There is a wide range of plant-based milk, cream alternatives, but also yoghurt based on soy, coconut or oats. Your breakfast can also be made richer in fiber with animal milk products. Add some oatmeal and fresh fruit to your yogurt and you've got your fiber boost and more flavor than plain.
Sugar should generally be consumed in moderation. However, in addition to sugar, dark chocolate and cocoa powder also contain a lot of fiber, which is why they should be preferred to milk chocolate, for example.
soft drinks and alcohol
Because of the high sugar content, soft drinks should only be drunk from time to time. How about a freshly squeezed juice instead? You get a lot of vitamins at the same time.
Fiber is an important part of a balanced diet. Although it is not always easy to get used to at first, it is worth making the change in most cases.
As shown, there are studies that demonstrate the health-promoting aspects of a high-fiber diet. Therefore, it is recommended to stick to the guideline of 30 grams per day or more.
mdc-berlin.de: How dietary fiber and intestinal bacteria protect the heart, press release no. 31, December 12, 2018 Source
ugb.de: Get it: Eat high in fiber, Dipl. oec. trophic Stephanie FrommeSource
ugb.de: Valuable things from the shell, Franziska Horvat, February 2019 Source
Aldoori WH, Giovannucci EL, Rockett HR, Sampson L, Rimm EB, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary fiber types and symptomatic diverticular disease in men. J Nutr. 1998 Apr;128(4):714-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/128.4.714. PMID: 9521633. Source
hsph.harvard.edu: Fiber Source
Elmadfa, I., & Meyer, AL (2011). fiber. Gräfe and Unzer. Source
Friedrich, A. (2020). nutrition works. In A. Friedrich (ed.), Counselor Multiple Sclerosis: Answers to the most frequently asked questions of MS sufferers (pp. 151-155). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-61663-5_17 Source
Busch, M. Diet rich in fiber reduces the risk of stroke. CV 13, 53 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s15027-013-0131-x Source
Leitzmann C. (2018) Fiber. In: Stange R., Leitzmann C. (eds) Nutrition and fasting as therapy. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-54475-4_7 Source
dge.de: Carbohydrates, Dietary Fiber Source