Fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Fiber is a part of food that the body can’t digest or absorb. There are many benefits to fiber, mainly reducing the risk of heart disease and improving our digestive health. As such, it’s crucial that you consume high fiber foods on a daily basis. By doing that, you can improve the quality and length of your life.
How much fiber do you need?
The first thing people ask is how much fiber you actually need. We always say we need to consume high fiber foods to improve the quality of life—but how much fiber do we actually need?
An important part of a healthy, balanced diet, fiber prevents diabetes, heart disease, cancer, weight gain, and much more. The problem is that many people don’t get enough fiber.
Here is a quick breakdown of how much fiber you need:
- Children between 2 and 5 years old need 15g of fiber per day
- Children between 5 and 11 years old need 20g of fiber per day
- Teenagers between 11 and 16 years old need 25g of fiber per day
- Young adults between 16 and 18 years old need 30g of fiber per day
- Adults between 18 and 50 years old need 30g of fiber per day
- In addition, once you reach 50 years old, a physician will recommend a diet that takes your condition and overall health into account
Fiber is found in foods that come from plants. Foods like meat, fish, and dairy products don’t contain any fiber.
Patients suffering from disorders like irritable bowel syndrome need to modify the type and amount of fiber they consume in accordance with the symptoms.
Benefits of fiber
To be honest, most of us don’t know how many grams of fiber we’re taking on a daily basis. Fiber is something people don’t think much about.
But therein lies the problem. The recommended dosage for healthy adults, as mentioned previously, is between 25g and 30g (assuming you consume 2,000 calories per day). According to the American Dietetic Association, the typical American consumes 14g – 15g of fiber per day.
Some think that because we can’t digest fiber, it’s not good for us. News flash: despite our body not being able to digest fiber, we need it. There are many benefits of consuming foods rich in fiber, including:
- Fiber can reduce blood cholesterol levels and normalize blood glucose and insulin levels. Consuming the gummy and gelatinous type of fiber found in oats, kidney beans, and cereals helps with preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Fiber found in wheat bran, strawberry seeds, apples, and bean skins helps the functioning of the large intestine. Fiber promotes regular bowel movement and prevents constipation.
- Sticking to a diet with the recommended dosage of fiber can help people with syndrome X, an insulin-resistant condition linked to obesity.
- Foods high in fiber prevent formation of intestinal pouches, improving the health of your colon.
- Fiber can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. By doubling the intake of high fiber foods (but not over the 30g recommended dosage), you can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 40%.
- Fiber also has protective benefits against breast cancer.
- Foods high in fiber can enhance the body’s insulin sensitivity.
What happens if you don’t consume high fiber foods?
Now that we know the benefits of consuming high fiber foods, let’s talk a little about what happens when you don’t consume enough fiber. Basically, all of the opposite effects. But let’s break them down.
You get backed up
When you feel “backed up” in the bathroom, one of the possible reasons is low fiber in your body. When you consume high fiber foods on a regular basis, your diet allows more water to remain in your stool, making it easy to pass through the intestines. Without fiber, our digestive system is slowed down, and it’s hard to eliminate waste. Consume more foods high in fiber to keep things moving smoothly.
You feel hungry
Fiber is probably the most important ingredient in your diet. Protein will keep your muscles healthy and carbs will give you energy, but it’s fiber that keeps you full. You might eat a whole buffet of meat, but you will feel hungry shortly after because your meal lacked fiber. In addition to keeping you full, fiber slows down the digestion process, which makes you feel full for a longer period of time. Adding brown rice, beans, and similar fiber foods to your meals and snacks will help you prevent stomach growling.
Your cholesterol goes through the roof
The less fiber you consume, the higher the risk for high cholesterol climbs. Fiber can act as a magnet that moves through the intestines, attracting and carrying out artery-clogging plaque. Otherwise, that plaque will spike cholesterol levels.
When you don’t get enough fiber, you feel hungrier and you crave food. The result is you’re more prone to overeating, which is a red flag for gaining weight. Consuming enough fiber can help you lose 100 calories per day. Now, those 100 calories might seem trivial, but that’s a 10-pound weight loss over a period of 12 months.
Increased risk of heart disease
We said your cholesterol level spikes when you consume too little fiber. Well, high cholesterol levels almost always translate to heart disease and increased risk of stroke. Both of these conditions are a result of plaque in the arteries.
You’re deficient in other nutrients
Being deficient in fiber results in a deficiency of other nutrients as well. When you’re not eating high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, chances are you’re missing out on other healthy nutrients from those foods as well. For example, in addition to fiber, fruits and vegetables are rich in minerals are vitamins you just can’t get from meat sources.
Fiber controls the amount of sugar in the blood, and when you experience those spikes, chances are you might develop diabetes. But seesawing blood sugar levels also contribute to a feeling of lethargy. You might get a healthy dose of sleep, but your energy levels are still down. The simple explanation for this condition is not enough fiber in your diet.
Difference between soluble and insoluble fiber
There are two types of fiber. And for a healthy, balanced diet, you need both of them in your diet.
Soluble fiber dissolves in the water in the digestive system. This type of fiber helps you reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood. You can source it from oats, rye, barley, fruits, root vegetables, and golden linseeds. Soluble fiber is great when you’re constipated, as it will help you soften and loosen up the stool. It will make it easier for the stool to pass through your intestines and flush out as waste.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Unlike soluble, insoluble fiber passes through your gut without being broken down. Insoluble fiber helps other foods to move and pass through your digestive system. You can source it from bran, cereals, nuts and seeds, and whole meal bread. If you suffer from diarrhea, however, it’s advisable that you limit the intake of insoluble fiber.
Whenever you need to increase the consumption of fiber, it’s best that you do it gradually. This is important, as a sudden increase in fiber will produce more flatulence, making you feel bloated. The result is often stomach cramps. Also, when you consume high fiber foods, make sure to consume enough fluids as well. If you exercise, you should up your consumption of water even more. The same applies when the weather is increasingly hot.
High fiber foods to eat
When people think of avocado, the first association is as a source of healthy fats. And that’s true. Avocado is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. But you can also get a ton of fiber from a cup of avocado. Now, bear in mind that the fiber content depends on the type of avocado (e.g., whether your avocado is bright green, smooth-skinned, smaller, darker). The smooth-skinned avocado has the highest amount of fiber. But generally speaking, one cup of avocado delivers about 10g of fiber.
Whichever type of berries you choose from the wide palette of berries, you can’t go wrong. Every berry has a lot of fiber. But just so that you have an idea, the raspberry brings the most fiber to the table (8g of fiber per cup). And you also get vitamin A, C, E, and K.
Blackberries, on the other hand, deliver 7.5g of fiber per cup, but you also get omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C and K. Blackberries help with bone density and support healthy bones. If you want to take things to the next level, you can always make a combination of berries. Throw some coconut milk in there, and you have a tasty meal.
Speaking of coconut, let’s talk about the fruit for a moment. One cup of coconut will give you 7g of fiber, as well as some folate, selenium, manganese, and omega-6 fatty acids. All coconut products are good, but the raw fruit is the best when you want to get some fiber.
Coconut products have grown in popularity in the last few years. If you haven’t started consuming coconut yet, it’s time to get on the bandwagon. Because of its low glycemic index, coconut can easily be incorporated in any diet. Coconut helps with cholesterol and heart disease, and studies have shown that in countries where coconut is a staple product, heart disease is less common.
One way to use more coconut is to substitute coconut flour for other flours. And of course, coconut milk is the cream of the crop.
Asian pears go by many names, like Korean pear, Japanese pear, Chinese pear, Taiwanese pear, and so on. But it’s basically the same product. Crips and delicious, the Asian pear delivers almost 10g of fiber per medium-sized fruit with the skin on. In addition to fiber, you also get decent amounts of vitamin C and K, as well as some omega-6 fatty acids. But what makes the Asian pear so good is the great amount of potassium. All of these ingredients help with healthy cells, nerve functions, and brain functions.
The best thing about figs is they contain the same amount of soluble and insoluble fiber. That makes them one of the most unique, high fiber foods available. With that in mind, one cup of dried figs contains almost 14.6g of fiber.
As such, they can lower blood pressure, protect against macular degeneration, and many other benefits associated with fiber. Fresh figs are also a good idea. You can put figs, dried or fresh, on top of cereals and salads, or make a special dessert with figs and goat cheese.
Beans are a perfect fiber option, as you can easily combine them with any dish. Just cook them in your slow cooker (or in any other pot). The slow cooker can help you create a creamy bean, without it becoming mushy.
Black beans contain 12.2g of fiber per cup, and they are also a great source of protein, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate. As one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the market, they provide almost everything your body needs. Because of the high amount of antioxidants and flavonoids, black beans are a great asset in the battle against free radicals. Because of this, black beans can reduce the risk of cancer as well as inflammatory diseases.
Chickpeas are another great vegetarian source of protein that are also rich in fiber. One cup of cooked chickpeas delivers around 8g of fiber. And in addition to protein, chickpeas are also rich in copper, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, manganese, and folate.
Chickpeas are best consumed as hummus, which you can enjoy as a snack, for dinner, or for lunch.
Not many foods contain B vitamins naturally. But lima beans pack a decent amount of B2 and B6, in addition to 13g of fiber per cup. They are also rich in iron. In fact, they contain one-fourth of the daily recommended dosage of iron for women. Lima beans contain manganese, phosphorus, and copper, vitamins that help with energy production. Because of their dense nutritional value, lima beans are part of almost every healing foods diet plan.
Lentils are some of the best, high fiber foods you can find. They contain almost 11g of fiber per cup, but they also contain a lot of other healthy nutrients. For example, they are rich in folate, and are one of the top 10 high folate foods. A cup of lentils also brings a lot of protein, iron, and phosphorus to the table.
Thanks to its high folate amount, lentils are great for pregnant women, people with liver disease, and people who are taking medication on a regular basis. The best way to add more lentils to your diet is with a lentil soup.
Artichokes are one of the more popular Italian vegetables, delivering 10g of fiber per medium-sized vegetable. They are low in calories and rich in healthy nutrients, making them great for any diet, be it weight loss or just a regular healthy diet. They deliver almost half of the recommended daily dose of fiber for women. They are also rich in antioxidants vitamins like A, B, C, E, K, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
You can say green peas are underrated. Not many people think of them, but they are loaded with healthy nutrients (starting off with 8.6g of fiber per cooked cup, most of which is insoluble fiber). They also pack decent amounts of vitamin C, B6, A, and K, as well as protein, manganese, folate, and thiamin.
And the best part is you can easily find frozen peas. They are available all year round, making them an ideal addition to your diet. You can steam them and then add them to soups or salads.
Another underrated vegetable. When you think of cruciferous vegetables, kale, cabbage, and broccoli are usually the first that come to mind. But Brussels sprouts are the richest in fiber among them. They are even richer than broccoli, a veggie many consider the healthiest among cruciferous vegetables. One cup of Brussels sprouts has 7.6g of fiber, with an almost perfect balance between soluble and insoluble fiber.
They are also high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, making them great for a healthy detox.
Another cruciferous veggie makes the list of high fiber foods, with 4.8g of fiber per half a cup. They are widely considered underutilized in the United States, so this is your chance to make them better known! You can try them raw as well as cooked. In any case, the taste will delight you.
There are two nuts that stand out of the crowd in terms of high fiber foods: almonds and walnuts. In addition to fiber, almonds also contain protein, magnesium, omega-6 fatty acids, riboflavin, and vitamin E. Walnuts, on the other hand, contain manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, folate, phosphorus, vitamin B6, protein, and copper.
These nuts don’t contain high amounts of fiber (definitely lower than the previously mentioned foods), but they are a healthy way to get a quick fiber injection. Nuts are one of the healthiest snacks, and you can even add them to cereals, tacos, and similar recipes.
Chia seeds have grown in popularity in the past several years. They were known to the Eastern world for some years, but the Western world is slowly catching up. Chia seeds pack 5.5g of fiber per tablespoon, and they also provide protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, and phosphorus. They are considered a superfood that you can easily incorporate in your daily diet.
You might experience gas and bloating, but you can increase your water consumption to minimize the symptoms. The best way to consume chia is to soak the seeds in water overnight, and then eat them the next day.
Some people hate quinoa seeds because of their neutral taste and flavor. But that’s exactly what makes quinoa so perfect. You can easily add them to any dish and reap the benefits. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 5g of fiber.
The amazing nutritional profile of quinoa, and the fact that it’s easy to digest (unlike some other grains), makes this seed one of the best on the market. In addition to fiber, you’ll also get magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamin B6 from quinoa.
Five quick ways to get more fiber
Now that we know all of the benefits of fiber, and all of the high fiber foods, let’s talk a little about how you can easily add more fiber to your diet. We know you need between 25g and 30g of fiber per day, but how can you get there? Here are five easy and quick ways.
Start your day with fiber
Your breakfast should always contain carbs (for energy), fiber (for digestion) and protein (for muscles). There are several things you can add to your breakfast, be it cereal or something else, that contain fiber.
- 1 cup of raisin bran gives you 7g of fiber
- ¾ cup of cooked oatmeal translates to 3g of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked cream of wheat is 3g of fiber
- 1 cup of Wheaties is 3g of fiber
- Get some veggies or fruits in your breakfast bowl and that’s even more fiber
Load up on whole grains
Generally speaking, people think bread is not a healthy food. But that’s only half true. When you consume bread and similar products made with whole grains, you get fiber and other healthy nutrients:
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread is 4g of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked brown rice is 4g of fiber
- Fiber-enriched white bread contains 3g of fiber per 2 slices
- Use whole-wheat flour when baking to increase your fiber intake
Fruits–the best snack
There is no better snack than fruit. As a general rule of thumb, fruits are better served to consume in the morning up through the afternoon. After that, fruits contain more sugar than your body can use through the remainder of the day. Here are some popular choices:
- One apple gives you almost 4g of fiber
- One pear gives you 4g of fiber
- One cup of berries (strawberries preferred) has between 3 and 4g of fiber
- One banana gives you 3g of fiber
Vegetables, a great afternoon snack
While fruits are more suited for a morning through 1 pm snack, vegetables are great evening snacks. For example, in between your lunch and dinner, you can get some veggies. Of course, you can always get a serving of veggies with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- 1 cup of cooked carrots equals 5g of fiber
- 1 cup of raw carrots, on the other hand, is 4g of fiber
- 1 sweet potato delivers 4g of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked broccoli gives you 4.5g of fiber
- 2 cups of raw spinach leaves gives you 3g of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked cauliflower is 3g of fiber
The magic beans
You can think of beans as the best side dish for your lunch or dinner. Or you can consume them whenever you like. Beans don’t get nearly enough credit for all the healthy nutrients they deliver.
- 1 cup of canned minestrone soup gives you 5g of fiber
- One burrito with beans, made at home, can give you up to 8g of fiber
- ¼ cup of kidney beans equals 3g of fiber
- ½ cup of fat-free refried beans gives you 6g of fiber