Although most dieticians promote the consumption of fiber for weight loss and other health-related benefits, most Americans get less than half of the daily recommend intake “14 grams for every 1,000 calories of food”
In this article, we are going to look at fiber, high fiber foods to add to your diet, how much fiber you should eat daily, the health benefits you get from fiber and the downsides of eating too much fiber.
But what exactly is fiber?
Fibre simply means a type of carbohydrate that naturally exists in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains that the human body cannot digest.
Although fiber cannot be broken down and absorbed, it is good for the digestive system and has numerous health benefits as we shall see in the coming sections. Read on and discover more.
Types of fiber
Fiber exists in two forms namely; soluble and insoluble fiber. Both are important although they function differently. Most diets have both types of fiber with 75% coming from insoluble fiber and 25% from soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel which slows the digestive process. Slowing digestion is what helps weight loss. Foods rich in soluble fiber are oats, legumes, edible plant skins, and nuts.
Insoluble fiber repels water and is common to foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, wheat bran, and whole-grain foods like brown rice. Insoluble fiber provides bulk to stool and ensures a smooth movement of food through the digestive tract.
What are high fiber foods to add to your diet?
Examples of high fiber foods we can add to our diet include;
The pears are both tasty and nutritious. They are among the best fruits with a good source of fiber.
These have fiber and are loaded with vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants.
Unlike most fruits, avocado is loaded with healthy fats. It is high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and various B vitamins.
These are edible fruits produced by the apple tree. They are among the most satisfying fruits to eat due to their fiber content. Apples contain Vitamin C, antioxidants, and several nutrients.
Raspberries contain fiber, vitamin C, and manganese.
Carrots are root vegetables with a wide range of nutrients. Carrots have vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium, and beta-carotene.
The beet, or beetroot, is a root vegetable used in many cuisines around the world. Beets have fiber, folate, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.
Beets also have inorganic nitrates that are important in blood pressure regulation and exercise performance.
Broccoli is a green plant whose flower head and stalk are eaten as vegetables. It belongs to the same family as cabbages. Broccoli is loaded with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, B vitamins, potassium, iron, manganese, and antioxidants.
This is also known as French artichoke or green artichoke. It is a flowering plant with prickly leaves. It is one of the world’s best sources of fiber.
10. Brussels Sprout
This has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have got its name there. It is a member of the group of cabbages. Brussels sprout is high in vitamin K, potassium, folate, and antioxidants.
Lentils are tiny legumes with a delicious earthy flavor. They are both protein and fiber powerhouses.
12. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are a common type of legume. They are good sources of fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated annual legumes from the Fabaceae family. They are high in fiber and proteins.
Quinoa is a flowering plant of the family amaranth. It is an herbaceous annual plant grown for its edible seeds. Quinoa has nutrients like protein, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, antioxidants, and more.
The oat is a cereal grain grown for its seed. Oats are among the healthiest grain foods on the planet. Oats are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Oats have oat beta-glucan, a powerful fiber which regulates both blood sugar and cholesterol levels
Popcorn is one of the best snacks you can have if you are looking to stock high fiber snacks. Popcorn is high in fiber and low in calories.
Almonds are the edible seeds of the almond tree. They have plenty of fiber, healthy fats, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
18. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are very tiny black seeds from the Salvia plant. They are high in fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.
19. Sweet Potatoes
These are root tubers, very filling, and delicious. Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, B vitamins, and various minerals.
20. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one of the most enjoyed foods on the planet. It is high in fiber, very nutritious, and powerful source of antioxidants.
How much fiber should I eat a day?
According to The U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2010, women should take about 25 grams (g) of fiber a day while men should take around 38 grams (g) of fiber a day. However, the research by Harvard Health Publishing shows that most people in the US only get half of the recommended dietary intake, which is about 15 g.
Adding fiber foods to your diet is surprisingly easy and on top of that, fiber-rich foods are tasty.
To have enough fiber in your diet, always make at least half of your grains whole grains, and aim at five servings of fruits and vegetables.
You can also replace your snacks with high-fiber foods for example nuts, hummus, high-fiber cereal, and whole-grain.
What are the health benefits of eating food rich in fiber?
The health benefits of high fiber foods include;
1. Fiber helps weight loss
Fibre attracts water and forms gel, slowing digestion. A slow digestive system promotes satiety and stabilizes blood sugar. This implies reduced food intake hence weight loss.
High fiber food is also lower in calorie density. This means that you can full up without consuming too many calories. This greatly helps with weight loss.
You can read the article “most filling foods for weight loss” and learn more about satiety and weight loss.
2. Fiber helps digestive disorders
Fiber is like a bloom that sweeps your digestive system clean. For example, fiber reduces the risk of diverticulitis, which is the inflammation of pouches in the digestive tract. Fiber sweeps food out of these pouches and moves it swiftly through the system.
3. Fibre reduces cholesterol
During digestion, the body produces bile salts to break down fats in the food. The bile salts are made of cholesterol. Fiber binds the bile salts so that they are not recirculated in the body.
The body will have to produce more bile salts by using cholesterol from the liver. It is through this process that cholesterol is continuously reduced from the body
4. Fiber reduces blood pressure
Fiber is also good at reducing high blood pressure. This can happen in many ways. For example, fiber reduces the amount of salt in the body as we all know that high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure.
What are the side effects of high fiber foods?
Like the old saying “too much of anything is bad”, fiber is not an exception. Too much fiber can land you into trouble. It can be harmful to your health. Some of the side effects of eating too much fiber include;
- Stomach cramps
- Intestinal blockage
- Mineral binding: Where the body excretes important minerals instead of absorbing them. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are likely to be excreted by too much fiber.
Fibre has a lot of health benefits. It promotes weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, helps digestion, and more. The bad thing is that most of us fail to meet the recommended daily intake of 25 g for women and 38 g for men.
Go for foods we have listed in our list of high fiber foods above to increase your fiber intake.
Subscribe for weekly insights on faster weight loss and good health.