Fiber is a vital part of any healthy diet. Fiber plays many roles in regulating digestion and elimination. It also supports healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight. This article will discuss the benefits of dietary fiber and the best food sources.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is essentially an indigestible carbohydrate found in foods. There are two primary types of fiber that include soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can be metabolized by beneficial bacteria in the gut. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water and is typically not utilized by bacteria in the gut.
Within these two groups of soluble or insoluble fibers, there are many different types, some beneficial to health, while others have little or no benefit.
Some people may wonder if fiber is “indigestible,” why should we eat it? Fiber is not digested and passes through the digestive tract. This is beneficial for keeping the digestive tract clean and helping us eliminate stool.
Fiber adds bulk to stool and absorbs excess water from food. All in all, eating enough fiber helps to keep our bowel movements and overall digestion regular. At the same time, too much or too little fiber can cause constipation and unhealthy digestion.
Furthermore, these indigestible carbohydrates act as food for the beneficial bacteria in our intestines, helping to keep their communities strong. As we know, a healthy gut is one of the primary keys to good overall health, so eating enough fiber supports your gut health and overall health and wellness.
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
Since everyone leads a different lifestyle, lives in different environments, and has a different body, there is no specific health advice that can be generalized for every person. So, each person’s fiber needs will differ based on their unique body and lifestyle. That being said, most health authorities recommend that men eat around 38 grams of fiber per day and women eat around 25 grams of fiber per day.
What Are Some Food Sources of Dietary Fiber?
Regarding dietary sources of fiber, the best foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Of course, the amount of fiber that foods within these food groups provide will differ, but generally, these are the best sources of fiber in food. Some of the top fiber-rich foods include:
Avocados are good sources of dietary fiber and are loaded with essential nutrients. While most fruits are high in sugar, avocado is high in healthy fat. Avocados are also high in vitamin C, vitamin E, various B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. Just one cup of avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, nearly half of the fiber recommendations for women and nearly a quarter of the fiber recommendations for men.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower. They are loaded with vitamin K and also contain powerful antioxidants. They are also rich in potassium, folate, and amino acids. In addition to their great nutrient content, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of fiber, with just one cup of raw Brussels sprouts containing 3.3 grams of fiber.
Lentils are a very nutritious food. They are high in protein and packed with many essential nutrients. Lentils are also one of the best sources of dietary fiber, with one cup of cooked lentils containing 13.1 grams.
4. Split Peas
Split peas are made from the seeds of peas. They are dried, then split, which makes them easier to cook and bypasses the need to soak them before cooking. Split peas are highly nutritious and an excellent fiber source, with 16.3 grams of fiber in every cooked cup of split peas.
5. Kidney Beans
Most beans and legumes are high-fiber foods. Kidney beans, in particular, are loaded with fiber and healthy plant-based protein, and other beneficial nutrients. One cup of cooked kidney beans contains 12.2 grams of fiber.
Oats are one of the world’s healthiest grains. They contain many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. They are also a great source of dietary fiber. Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has many benefits and helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. A cup of raw oats contains 16.5 grams of dietary fiber.
Raspberries are another high-fiber food and a great source of many nutrients, particularly vitamin C and manganese. These delicious berries contain 8 grams of fiber per cup of fresh fruit.
Almonds are a popular tree nut with healthy fats and nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. They are also fiber-rich, with 3 tablespoons of almonds containing 4 grams fiber.
9. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a true superfood. These tiny black seeds are highly nutritious, containing high amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium and healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Chia seeds are also considered to be one of the best sources of fiber in the world. Just one ounce of chia seeds contains 9.75 grams of fiber.
Plus, chia seeds are essential to add to your meals. They can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, salads, grain bowls, or just about anything else. Many people also soak their chia seeds for 30 minutes or longer before eating them. This causes a mucilaginous substance to form around them that is soothing to the digestive tract, supports digestion and elimination, and helps to absorb excess water in the gut.
Make Sure To Eat Enough Fiber Each Day
Fiber is an important part of any healthy diet, as it is critical in digestive health and regulating bowel movements. It also is important for managing blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
It is recommended for women to get around 25 grams of fiber daily and for men to get around 38 grams daily. This can quickly be done by consuming the fiber-rich foods mentioned above.
Many people today, especially those that are less health conscious, consume diets high in meat, dairy, eggs, refined grains, and processed foods—which all contain very little fiber. As a result, many people suffer from digestive issues that could be solved by just including more fiber in their daily diet.
Most high-fiber foods are vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, which contain fiber and typically have many other beneficial nutrients.
Make sure you are eating healthy servings of these foods each day, and if you are particularly concerned about meeting your fiber needs, aim to eat more of the specific high-fiber foods mentioned in this article.