You probably already know this: A healthy diet always includes high-fiber foods in it.
Most people are familiar with fiber in terms of its constipation relieving effects. But, the superpower of fiber doesn’t end here.
It can reduce the risk of various diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and a few cancers. Fiber can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Fiber foods are mostly tasty. You do not necessarily have to gulp your food to consume more fiber.
This article will take you through the benefits of fiber and a list of 20 high-fiber foods you should eat.
Dietary fiber is the non-digestible component in your plant-based food. It is also known as bulk or roughage. Unlike carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, fiber remains intact throughout the digestive tract and is excreted from the body as such.
Dietary Fiber Classification
1. Soluble Fiber:
It can dissolve in water. The important role of soluble fiber includes:
• Blood glucose regulation
• Delayed gastric emptying
• Reduce serum cholesterol
All these roles are secondary to colonic fermentation (metabolization of fiber by bacteria in the gut) and increased viscosity of gut content due to soluble dietary fiber.
Rich sources of soluble fiber include apples, beans, carrots, oranges, peas, barley, oats, and psyllium.
2. Insoluble Fiber:
It is insoluble in water. It supports the growth of probiotics species of bacteria, shortens the bowel transit time and improves the bulk of fecal matter, thereby inducting laxative effect.
Individuals who struggle with irregular stools and constipation are more likely to benefit from insoluble fiber.
Rich sources of inorganic fiber include nuts, wheat bran, green beans, potatoes, and cauliflower.
Most plant-based foods contain both types of fiber, but in varying amounts. Eat a wide variety of fiber-foods to gain more significant benefits.
Benefits of a High-fiber Diet
In the past two decades, research has discovered many benefits of eating fiber diet. From preventing chronic conditions to improving gut functions, fiber has important roles to play.
1. High fiber intake can reduce weight.
As discussed earlier, fiber soaks up water and aids in slow digestion and absorption of food. The resulting fullness keeps calorie intake low.
Low appetite and a reduced intake of calories are great for your weight loss goals. Soluble fiber is more likely to produce this effect.
2. Dietary fiber reduces sugar spikes in the blood.
Unlike refined carbohydrates, high-fiber foods – especially those with soluble fiber – have a low glycemic index, which means fiber food does not cause sugar spikes in blood after meals. This property of fiber is especially useful for individuals with diabetes.
3. High fiber intake reduces constipation.
Fiber is famous for its laxative properties. It increases the bulk and water content of stool. A bulky and soft stool is more comfortable to pass through the rectum. Fiber also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
A research study conducted on individuals with chronic constipation showed that switching to low-fiber diet improved constipation in study subjects, whereas those who remained on high-fiber diet achieved no greater benefit. However, other studies showed that fiber improves bowel movements.
It seems like not all fiber is created equal. The fiber that increases the water content of your stool is generally more helpful in relieving or preventing constipation as compared to insoluble fiber. A good example of fiber with laxative effect is psyllium and sorbitol.
4. Fiber foods lower bad cholesterol levels.
Soluble fiber may help lower your cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoproteins (LDL) levels. There isn’t much evidence to support this statement, especially in terms of long-term effects. However, a few controlled studies show that consuming 2-10 grams of soluble fiber daily is associated with up to 2 mg of LDL reduction.
Observational studies also show that people who take high-fiber diets have a better lipid profile as compared to those who eat refined carbs and fatty foods.
5. Fiber is good for gut flora.
The fact may surprise you, but we have 10 times more bacteria than cells in our body. Don’t be scared. These are good bacteria, or at least they cause no harm unless an opportunity arises, like low immunity.
Although these bacteria are found in every region of the body, the large intestine is particularly a high-bacterial region.
The gut bacteria – also known as gut flora – consist of about 100 trillion cells from 500 different species of bacteria. While we provide food and shelter to these microorganisms, they return the favor by doing a few things humans are incapable of.
The question is: what does gut flora have to do with dietary fiber?
Well, the indigestible fiber is actually digestible for good bacteria found in our large intestine. Since fats, carbs, and proteins are usually absorbed into the bloodstream before reaching the large intestine, dietary fiber – which reaches large intestine in its intact form – feeds the gut flora. It promotes good bacteria in the gut and creates a win-win situation for both humans and the bacterial colonies residing in our intestines.
6. Dietary fiber reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
There have been many observational studies on the association between type 2 diabetes risk and fiber intake. In a meta-analysis constituting studies from 1974 to 2013, it was seen that 19,033 cases out of 488,293 participants reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes through fiber intake.
Moreover, a few cohort studies have also shown a positive association between fiber intake and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.
Daily Fiber Requirements
The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 and 25 grams of fiber for daily intake in men and women aged 50 or younger, respectively.
For older men and women, it is 30 and 21 grams, respectively.
17 Fiber-rich foods for you
What are some excellent sources of fiber, you may wonder? We have compiled a list of 22 high-fiber foods that are not only beneficial to your health but also friendly to your taste buds.
Artichokes are the number 7 food on the list of USDA’s top antioxidant-rich foods. So they are no joke. The veggie is packed with dietary fiber (of course), vitamin C, folate, and antioxidants.
A single artichoke has 10 grams of fiber.
Artichokes are often underrated. You may not want to munch on one. But they taste great if you mix them with other foods. Use cut artichokes in dips, pasta, and on pizzas.
You may know avocados as a source of healthy fat. They may be your favorite breakfast food, but you may be unaware that avocados are also an excellent source of fiber.
What do you think would be the fiber content of a half avocado?
It’s 7 grams. No, we are not joking.
If you are using that mashed avocado as a spread on your brown bread, there’s no reason you should stop doing that.
Oatmeal is the healthiest breakfast food. It is nutrient-dense, great for starting your morning, and has a high-fiber content. One cup has 8 grams of fiber in it. Add some nuts, and the fiber content will go even higher. Also, take a look at healthiest breakfast foods here.
4. Brown Rice
Like most people, do you also prefer white rice? While Brown may not be your favorite color, brown rice is a better option in terms of health. It also a more fibrous food.
A cup of white rice contains 2 grams of fiber, whereas a cup of brown rice has 4 grams of fiber in it. Similarly, brown pasta is a more fibrous option as compared to white pasta.
5. Split Peas
Peas are the spring veggie. A cup full of cooked split peas contains more than 16 grams of fiber in it. Peas are an easily affordable vegetable and can be an ingredient in almost any food from rice to spaghetti. They are also easy to store because of their ability to retain nutrition in frozen form as well.
Pears are one of the most popular fruits in the taste category. They are nutritious and a good source of fiber, too. A medium-sized pear contains almost 5.5 grams of fiber; this is more than the fiber amount found in apples.
Keep in mind that most of the fiber content is found in pear skin. If you peel it, you lose the precious fiber.
Did anyone suggest prunes the last time you were fighting constipation issues?
Prune (dried plums) are known for their constipation-fighting powers. One cup of prunes provides 12 grams of fiber. Moreover, the sugar alcohol found in dried plums also has a laxative effect. Do add this dry fruit to your diet, at least when refined carbs give you problems.
Oranges – just like other citrus fruits – are not only power packed with vitamin C, but also contain a decent amount of fiber. A medium orange can provide you 3.1 grams of dietary fiber. Not bad, huh?
Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. You can easily consume 3.1 grams of fiber by eating a medium-sized banana.
They are also useful for treating bloating and muscle cramps.
You have definitely heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Although there is no 100 percent truth in this saying, it can still save you from poop issues.
A small apple contains about 4 grams of fiber. It’s a good way to add to your daily fiber-intake goals.
This incredibly delicious food provides a lot of nutrition and fiber. One cup contains 3 grams of fiber.
Strawberries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and other minerals that have excellent effects on your skin and immune system.
A plus point: they are low-glycemic index fruit, and you can enjoy a mouthful even if you have diabetes.
One of the reasons you look forward to summers is berries. You can include raspberries in your low-fiber dessert to make it high in fiber.
One cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber. Wow! That’s even better than strawberries.
Do you like carrots just like bugs bunny? This crunchy, tasty, and nutritious vegetable can provide you 3.6 grams of fiber in only one cup. Given the low-calorie content of carrots, this is a pretty good amount.
Moreover, carrots are a rich source of magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin A, and antioxidants.
14. Chia Seeds
These tiny black seeds are popular for their weight loss effects and other health benefits, such as protection against heart disease and stroke.
Chia seeds contain fiber, calcium, omega-3 fatty acid, iron, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, antioxidants, and good cholesterol.
One ounce of chia seeds has 10.6 grams of fiber. That is almost 40 percent of your recommended fiber intake.
You can mix chia seeds in a muffin, put them in a pudding, bake them in a loaf of bread, or add them as toping.
We have all hated broccoli at some point in our lives, mostly during childhood. But then we grew up to discover what a nutrient-dense food broccoli is. Based on its high vitamin, iron, folate, and antioxidant content, we are finally bound to start liking broccoli for the sake of healthy eating.
Now that broccoli is our friend let us be informed that it also has 2.4 grams of fiber in one cup.
16. Lima Beans
What do you call lima beans? Madagascar bean or butter bean? Or maybe just lima beans. Kids are not a huge fan, whatever name you give to these beans. Unlike a pack of Smarties, lima beans contain 13 grams of fiber in one cup.
Don’t let your childhood memories of lima beans beans keep you away from eating them. In addition to fiber, they also contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and sodium.
Not only are chickpeas an inexpensive way to improve your nutrition, but also a great source of fiber. One cup contains 10.6 grams. You can easily add them to your diet; roast them, add them to a salad or make hummus.
Chickpeas: An Inexpensive Way To Improve Your Nutrition
Contrary to popular belief, fiber is useful not only in preventing constipation, but also a list of other health issues. Add some of these fiber-rich foods to your diet and reap the benefits.