What Is a High-Fiber Diet?

High fiber diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is a High-Fiber Diet?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most Americans do not meet their recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fiber. On a high-fiber diet, fiber consumption should meet or exceed the RDA for fiber—for adult women, 22 to 28 grams of fiber per day; for men, 28 to 34 grams per day.

While fiber is a carbohydrate, it is not easily digestible. This means it can provide feelings of fullness after eating without spiking blood sugar or adding too many extra calories. Fibrous foods often need extra chewing, which can also increase satiety.

Increasing your intake of heart-healthy fiber as part of a balanced diet is associated with a number of benefits, such as a reduced risk of chronic disease and cancer and improved digestive health. A high-fiber diet may also aid in weight loss.

What Experts Say

"High-fiber diets are great for so many reasons—they keep you regular, can help with weight loss, are heart-healthy, and are great for your gut and reducing overall inflammation. If you don’t eat a lot of fiber currently, slowly add it to your diet so that it’s well tolerated."
Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

Ideally, all or most of the fiber on a high-fiber diet should come from nutrient-rich foods rather than dietary supplements. This informal diet does not require any calorie or carbohydrate counting. Simply aim to increase your intake of foods that are higher in fiber.

You can customize a high-fiber diet to work for you. Check out this 7-day example plan for meal ideas.

  • Day 1: Yogurt parfait with raspberries; bean chili; grilled chicken with brown rice
  • Day 2: Eggs with green peppers and spinach; veggie burgers; roasted eggplant with tilapia
  • Day 3: Oatmeal with fruit; butternut squash with salmon; steamed cauliflower and broccoli with chicken breast
  • Day 4: Frittata with onions and kale; lentil soup; grilled shrimp with quinoa salad
  • Day 5: Chia seed pudding; kale salad with pumpkin seeds, squash, and edamame; baked chicken with asparagus
  • Day 6: Yogurt with nuts and cinnamon; steamed halibut with brown rice; vegetarian chili with beans, bell peppers, and carrots
  • Day 7: Cottage cheese with peaches; tofu with bok choy and eggplant; barley pilaf with collard greens and ground turkey

What You Can Eat

Fiber comes only from plants, so you will need to include plenty of plant sources in a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods. The good news is that many plant sources are also nutrient-dense, packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that are beneficial for your health.

The three most important kinds of dietary fiber are:

  • Insoluble: This fiber comes from the walls of plant cells and doesn't dissolve in water or ferment in the colon like soluble fiber. It is found in whole grains, the skin of fruits that grow on trees, and many green vegetables. This is the kind of fiber that helps with digestive health and regularity.
  • Soluble: This fiber is found in most plants, but especially in legumes and beans, root vegetables, many fruits, and some grains, such as oats and barley. "Good" bacteria in the colon use this kind of fiber as a food source, and it may help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
  • Prebiotic: This is a type of soluble fiber (called inulin or fructan) that is found in asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, and some root vegetables, as well as in certain grains. This fiber is also a food source for good gut bacteria.

Whole Fruits

Fiber is especially found in the skins, seeds, and membranes of plants, so it's best to enjoy as much of the plant as is edible.

One cup of raspberries or blackberries has 8 grams of fiber and only 64 calories, which makes them some of the most fiber-dense foods you can eat. Most kinds of fruit pack a ton of fiber, but raspberries top most others (with double the fiber of blueberries and strawberries). Add them to your yogurt bowl or snack on them plain.

Other fruits that are very high in fiber include:

  • Passionfruit
  • Guavas
  • Pomegranate seeds (not juice)
  • Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, and figs

Clear fruit juices, like grape and apple, contain very little fiber. It's better to eat the whole fruit with skin when possible, rather than just the juice. Orange juice with pulp does contain fiber, and prune juice is a very good source of fiber as well.

High-Fiber Vegetables

Vegetables are a great way to super-size meals and give you a hearty portion without adding too many calories. Using high-fiber veggies makes meals even more satisfying.

  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cabbage
  • Squash

Whole Grains

Choose whole grains over refined ones to boost fiber intake. For example, select 100% whole wheat bread instead of white bread (or wheat bread that isn't made from 100% whole wheat). Stick with whole grains as much as possible to boost your fiber intake. Try to add the following into your diet:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Brown rice

Oats are a great way to get the fiber you need, but not all oatmeal is created equal. Start with old-fashioned dry oats—a half-cup serving has four grams of fiber. To make it extra filling, prepare it "growing oatmeal" style with twice the liquid and double the cooking time. That'll give you a much larger portion. For even more fiber, top it off with a cup of fresh fruit.

Legumes

Beans are an amazing food to add to your diet. Not only are they naturally high in fiber, but they’re also packed with protein. They make great additions to a Add in the following to your high-fiber diet:

  • Black beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Edamame
  • Lentils

All of these beans are incredibly versatile. You can use black beans to make veggie burgers, chili, and even desserts like black bean brownies. Edamame is a great snack that has 4 grams of fiber in a half-cup of shelled beans.

Split pea and lentil soups are made mostly of legumes. Add bulk and flavor with pearled barley (a high-fiber whole grain) and satisfying, high-fiber veggies like butternut squash and potatoes. Homemade soups can be made lower in fat and salt compared to what's often found in soups at grocery stores.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds can pack a high-fiber punch. The following are especially great on this diet:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Squash seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds

Chia seeds provide 6 grams of fiber per tablespoon and ground flaxseeds have about 3 grams. They are easy additions to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or salad dressings. Plus, they are rich sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Ground flaxseeds add a nutty flavor and you can use them in baking or breading. Chia seeds can also be used to make chia pudding, which is a satisfying breakfast or dessert.

Nuts and roasted pumpkin or squash seeds make a great snack food. Season them with autumn spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or savory spices like curry powder or cayenne pepper. You will get just over 5 grams of fiber in an ounce of pumpkin seeds (the whole seed, not the unshelled kernels).

What You Cannot Eat

While you can pack in plenty of healthy fats and vegetables into a high-fiber diet, there are some foods that are best avoided. Mainly, you'll want to stay away from clear fruit juices as they have little fiber, and peeling discards valuable fiber.

Additionally, you'll want to avoid foods made with refined flours as they contain little to no dietary fiber. Select whole-grain versions instead.

How to Prepare a High-Fiber Diet & Tips

You can add fiber to any meal or snack to increase your overall daily intake. Just do so gradually so that your digestive system can tolerate it.

Don't worry too much about getting all the different kinds of fiber (soluble, insoluble, and prebiotic). As long as you are eating a diet that is rich in fiber overall, you can still reap the benefits.

When possible, get your fiber from food sources rather than using fiber supplements. Products promoted as "fiber-fortified" may also contain added sugars and other artificial ingredients, so check the nutrition label carefully.

Fiber can be helpful for people with certain digestive conditions. Consult your doctor to determine how much fiber you should be consuming, and whether or not fiber supplements would be helpful.

Sample Shopping List

Depending on your health needs, the amount of fiber you'll add to your diet can vary. For a balanced diet, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are good sources of dietary fiber in addition to lean protein sources and healthy fats.

The following shopping list offers a wide range of suggestions for getting started on a high-fiber plan. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list and you may find other foods that work better for you.

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy)
  • Veggies (broccoli, beets, artichoke, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes)
  • Fresh and frozen fruits (grapefruit, oranges, berries, bananas, apples, pears)
  • Healthy fats (avocados, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, olive oil)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, barley, amaranth, brown rice, oats)
  • Dried legumes (black beans, lentils, kidney beans, split peas, chickpeas)
  • Lean protein (chicken breast, turkey, tofu, halibut, salmon, eggs)
  • Dairy products (feta cheese, parmesan, manchego, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Optional: Psyllium husk fiber supplement

Sample Meal Plan

On a high-fiber diet, you'll want to try to include a source of dietary fiber at every meal. The following three-day meal plan offers a glimpse at what a few days on a well-balanced high-fiber diet could look like. Note that this meal plan is not all-inclusive, and if you do choose to follow this diet, there may be other meals that are more appropriate for your tastes, preferences, and budget.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Quinoa topped with fresh mixed berries, half a banana, and almonds
  • Lunch: Avocado chicken salad served on 12-grain bread; 1-ounce serving of walnuts
  • Dinner: Curry lentil soup with kale, green salad

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Savory spinach and feta oatmeal; grapefruit
  • LunchMediterranean chopped salad; red beet hummus with carrot sticks
  • Dinner: Grilled shrimp and veggie skewers; brown rice

Day 3

Pros of the High-Fiber Diet

Like all diets, the high-fiber diet has its benefits and drawbacks—although the pros of this diet are hard to beat.

Improves Digestive Health

Consuming dietary fiber helps keep bowel movements regular and prevents constipation and hemorrhoids.

Fiber may also be helpful for those with certain digestive conditions. A 2017 study shows that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can benefit from soluble and prebiotic fiber when it's added slowly to their diet. In addition, research indicates that increased fiber consumption can help those with Crohn's disease manage their symptoms.

Improves Heart Health

Not only does dietary fiber promote a healthy heart, but research shows that it can also help to lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Helps With Weight Loss

Dietary fiber helps promote weight loss because it's filling while also being low in calories. And when you eat more high-fiber foods, you have less room in your diet for foods that are not as nutrient-dense, such as refined carbohydrates.

Fibrous foods can also be a good source of lean protein, instead of higher-fat sources like red meat. One study published in 2015 found that simply focusing on adding more fiber to your diet can lead to weight loss almost as effectively as following a strict American Heart Association diet.

May Reduce Risk of Cancer

A 2016 review of studies found that dietary fiber lowers the risk of cancer death as well. In particular, the improved digestion associated with dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Lowers Blood Sugar

High fiber intake can also reduce blood sugar levels, which is important for those with diabetes. Research shows that a fiber-rich diet can both prevent and help treat type 2 diabetes.

Is Sustainable

Following a high-fiber diet is safe and healthy to continue for the long term.

Cons of the High-Fiber Diet

A high-fiber diet may cause some discomfort at first, but you may find that the downsides are relatively minor and can be overcome.

May Lead to Intestinal Gas

High-fiber foods, especially beans, have a reputation. Yes, it's true that they can cause or worsen intestinal gas. It may be embarrassing, but it's harmless and a sign that the good bacteria in the gut are doing their job. And prebiotic fiber can actually help make that gas less smelly.

Consuming more fiber than your body can handle may cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain, loose stools or diarrhea, and even constipation. While these symptoms are typically mild, some people may experience more intestinal discomfort than others.

Could Contribute to Abdominal Bloating

Both gas and bloating are a result of consuming too much fiber, too fast. So if you plan to start a high-fiber diet, do it gradually. Add fiber a little bit at a time so that your digestive system can handle it.

High in FODMAPs

Some foods that are high in fiber are also high in FODMAPs, a group of carbohydrates that can cause symptoms in people with certain bowel diseases.

Requires a Learning Curve

Most people aren't getting enough fiber in their current diet. So some people may find that cooking with high-fiber foods is unfamiliar territory and takes time to learn.

Without any formal guidelines to follow, some people may not understand how to boost their fiber intake while also eating healthfully. A high-fiber diet can be a healthy choice when it includes a variety of nutritious foods. Following a high-fiber diet while also consuming too many processed foods and added sugars is not a balanced approach to health.

Is the High-Fiber Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

A high-fiber diet abundant in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes is closely aligned with current dietary guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and low-fat dairy products. The USDA also recommends that Americans consume more fiber to meet their recommended daily intake.

A balanced diet that includes fiber-rich foods can also promote weight loss. To lose weight, the USDA recommends a reduction of 500 calories per day—but this number can vary based on age, sex, weight, height, and level of physical activity. To get an estimate of your own calorie needs, try this calculator.

Consuming more fiber-rich foods has several health benefits, including helping with weight loss. A diet high in fiber that also encourages a variety of nutrient-dense foods adheres to federal guidelines for a well-balanced diet.

A Word From Verywell

The evidence is convincing: Adding more fiber to your diet is a smart way to improve your health and, most likely, lose weight. Just use caution if you have any digestive health concerns or inflammatory bowel disease, and always add fiber to your diet gradually instead of all at once. If you do have a health condition and are interested in learning how you might benefit from a high-fiber diet, consult your healthcare provider for more advice.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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