Fiber intake is an ongoing subject among many of us. We don’t eat enough, we eat too much, it constipates us and it makes us go. It’s hard to get the facts straight when it comes to fiber. The bottom line: fiber is essential, and knowing which foods provide high amounts of fiber can lead to overall good health.
First off, in case you didn’t know, fiber is the roughage found in plant-based foods. Our bodies cannot break down fiber, which may have you wondering why it’s so good for us. Remarkably, its indigestible qualities are exactly what make it healthy.
When fiber is consumed it is not digested, so when it passes through our system it allows bowel movements to easily be released, flushing out hazards like bad cholesterol.
There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and helps to maintain blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. Some soluble sources of fiber are barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and remains bulky. This type of fiber works best to prevent constipation. Some insoluble sources of fiber are whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
Health benefits of fiber
The type of fiber you consume determines how fiber will benefit you. Here are some health benefits of fiber.
Digestion: Fiber has the ability to bulk-up stool which can normalize bowel movements. This is beneficial for both preventing and relieving constipation and diarrhea. Consumption of fiber can reduce a person’s risk of digestive health issues like inflammation of the intestines, lower gastric acid and reduce gallstones.
Heart: While mainly true of soluble fiber, all fiber can aid in the prevention of heart disease as it works to diminish bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help you lose weight; all contributing factors for heart disease.
Diabetes: A high-fiber diet from insoluble sources can lower a person’s risk of type-2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, consuming a diet high in soluble fiber can help manage blood sugar levels and minimize the absorption of sugar.
Skin: Fiber works beyond digestion and can even benefit the skin. Acne is caused by yeast and fungus excreting through the skin. Fiber works to flush toxins out so they don’t become visible markings on your body.
Top fiber rich foods
Below is a list of fiber rich foods taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2012. The * refers to changes in fiber content based on different brands.
|Fruits||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Pear, with skin||1 medium||5.5|
|Apple, with skin||1 medium||4.4|
|Strawberries (halves)||1 cup||3.0|
|Figs, dried||2 medium||1.6|
|Raisins||1 ounce (60 raisins)||1.0|
|Grains, cereal & pasta||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked||1 cup||6.3|
|Barley, pearled, cooked||1 cup||6.0|
|Bran flakes||3/4 cup||5.3|
|Oat bran muffin||1 medium||5.2|
|Oatmeal, instant, cooked||1 cup||4.0|
|Popcorn, air-popped||3 cups||3.5|
|Brown rice, cooked||1 cup||3.5|
|Bread, rye||1 slice||1.9|
|Bread, whole-wheat or multigrain||1 slice||1.9|
|Legumes, nuts and seeds||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Split peas, cooked||1 cup||16.3|
|Lentils, cooked||1 cup||15.6|
|Black beans, cooked||1 cup||15.0|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||13.2|
|Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked||1 cup||10.4|
|Sunflower seed kernels||1/4 cup||3.9|
|Almonds||1 ounce (23 nuts)||3.5|
|Pistachio nuts||1 ounce (49 nuts)||2.9|
|Pecans||1 ounce (19 halves)||2.7|
|Vegetables||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Artichoke, cooked||1 medium||10.3|
|Green peas, cooked||1 cup||8.8|
|Broccoli, boiled||1 cup||5.1|
|Turnip greens, boiled||1 cup||5.0|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||1 cup||4.1|
|Sweet corn, cooked||1 cup||4.0|
|Potato, with skin, baked||1 small||3.0|
|Tomato paste||1/4 cup||2.7|
|Carrot, raw||1 medium||1.7|
Fiber has many sources – both soluble and insoluble. We should be consuming fiber on a regular basis; unfortunately, with the typical American diet, many of us don’t get the adequate amount. By adding fiber rich foods into your diet you can begin to feel better and become healthier.
However, it’s important to note that fiber does affect people differently. Sometimes, depending on medical conditions, insoluble fiber can cause abdominal pain and bloating. Often drinking enough water can combat this. If you notice that insoluble fiber doesn’t sit well with you, depending on the food item, removing the skin can make it easier to digest.
If you keep these tips in mind you can enjoy fiber and be a healthier you.